Impact Consumerism – Hitting Reset on Capitalism

Voting at the Cash Register

Hello again,

This is the third part of the five-part explanation of how to make the world Less Bad.

In the last article, we introduced How We Fix Everything, a Wikipedia-like collaborative framework for exploring all the world’s problems and strategies for improvement.

Having goals and strategies to theoretically reach those goals is fine and good.

But it’s not the same thing as making progress.

To make real, meaningful progress, resources need to be devoted to refining, adapting, and carrying out the strategies.

Impact Consumerism is how we make that change happen.

How We Fix Everything is the what, the roadmap. Impact Consumerism is how the work gets done.

Business, or “the free market,” is the most powerful tool we humans have devised to affect progress. Guided by the “invisible hand,” self-interested individuals form corporations that turn resources into profit. But too often, that profit benefits a few at the expense of the many.

The challenge is to align the profit focus of business with our overall societal goals – what we arrive at with How We Fix Everything.

If we want real change, we as consumers need to do a better job of demanding that businesses be more involved in making progress. Many business leaders are sitting on the sidelines counting their money as the world descends further and further into chaos. Or even worse, actively polluting, exploiting workers, corrupting the political process, etc.

It is past time for us to embrace Impact Consumerism – withholding our hard-earned cash from companies that, at best, aren’t helping society, or at worst are actively making things worse.

Impact Consumerism is about leveraging the power of the free market to align our collective societal goals with those of business.

Generally, if a company helps make life better, easier, and happier, they get rewarded when we buy a product or service. We usually look at things like cost, reliability, and customer service when we’re making purchasing decisions.

But that’s not enough. Just take a look around! To drive real change, a company’s total impact on society needs to be taken into account.

Business owners should only be able to make money if they are contributing to society.

The traditional business theory says that by providing a good or service that people are willing to purchase, a business is automatically contributing to society. And sure that makes sense. But that’s the model that got us where we are today.

With all the trouble in the world, it’s irresponsible for us as stewards of this wonderful planet to let things like hunger, poverty, war,  environmental degradation, inequality, disease, and on and on continue to run roughshod over all of us.

It is time for us to enlist all the most powerful tools at our disposal. And the private sector is best positioned to drive positive change.

Businesses have the resources (money and people) and the ability to accomplish goals that governments, non-profits, and other groups simply don’t.

We’re not talking about a central authority making decisions. We’re talking about the free market, the power of individual purchasing decisions, affecting what companies devote their resources to.

We don’t need politicians, the media, or anyone else to do anything.

We just need to change our shopping habits and make out voices heard. We need to #DemandMoreForYourDollar

And at least publicly, more and more CEOs are paying lip service to “all stakeholders.”

Even though the “impact capitalism” (aka ESG, stakeholder, “woke” etc.) movement is more than a decade old (and there has been progress in many areas) – the most important problems of the day have been getting worse and worse.

The real, fundamental building blocks of society seem to be deteriorating at an accelerating pace. Inequality, polarization, crime, instability, trust in institutions – we’re failing to make progress all over.

We need to get businesses to do more. And Americans are ready to support responsible companies. A survey of more than 3,000 US adults found that nearly 80 percent of them were willing to pay higher prices to support more just companies.

We can’t force any company to do anything they don’t want to.

But as more and more of us use our purchasing decisions as a lever to affect change, the hope is that companies will start taking notice.

It might be slow or it might happen quite quickly. In these competitive times, all businesses are looking for ways to stand out, to differentiate themselves.

Instead of a race to the bottom towards faster and cheaper, businesses will have to take a step back and examine their business’s impact on the world.

Many companies have been presenting themselves as responsible, sustainable, compassionate, and on and on. And that’s a good step. But we don’t trust them, with good reason!

We need to make sure that companies are putting their money where their mouth is.

Impact Consumerism is about asking hard questions and demanding honest answers from businesses.

To recap the plan so far.

  • How We Fix Everything – A collaborative platform to organize our society in terms of “problems” and “solutions” so that we can see where we stand, where we want to get to, and how are we making progress.
  • Impact Consumerism – A movement for consumers to demand businesses do more to help all of us.

Next, we’ll introduce the third and final pillar of the Less Bad progress framework – The Humanity Index.

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