Consumers are the key to a better world — here’s how

Consumers are the key to a better world — here’s how

Don’t worry, this is not another dour piece on how consumers should stop buying a bunch of crap we don’t need and save the planet through purchasing abstinence. It’s a nice idea, but let’s be real, we are self interested animals who want what we want, when we want it. On the human hierarchy of needs our desire to gather, buy, display and protect our stuff falls somewhere between breathing and sex. It’s a powerful drug and motivator and I have no answers on how to curb it, so I will leave that to much smarter people. 

However, even though we consumers will continue to consume, I believe most of us deeply want to leave the world a better place than we found it. I believe given the chance we will choose good over bad even if it costs a little more. I believe we care about our fellow man and our planet and will help if we can. Unfortunately, most of us feel pretty helpless when it comes to the immense problems which face the world today. We are not power brokers who can change the world, not Bill Gates or Bono, not Obama or Putin. Most of us are ordinary people just trying to get through, do the right thing, give back where we can, and be the best people we can be. 

What we don’t realize is we have the most immense power in the world. Power which holds the key to solving some of the most important problems facing our world today, things like poverty, health care, the environment, income inequality, workplace safety, child labor and more. This power is in each and every one of us and we use it almost every single day, however we are generally unaware of how we are using it and as a result we are causing more harm than we know. What is this world changing power? Simple, it’s how we spend our money. Not what we spend our money on but who we buy from that determines how the world works. It’s a superpower with unlimited potential for good, and yet we don’t even know we have it. 

The consumer superpower

When we make a choice to spend money we tell the world what we value. Most of us spend more than 50% of our waking hours working to make money. When we spend that hard earned money it is a big deal and has massive consequences. Our choice of which company to spend our money with is like a vote, a vote that endorses not only their product, but their company and the way they behave. In this global economy, these votes have a ripple effect far greater than we can comprehend while we are standing in the aisle making a purchasing decision. 

Let’s say you are in a sporting goods store trying to decide on a down jacket. You are comparing an EcoDown (fictitious company) jacket with a Patagonia jacket. Now imagine you can see all the way down the EcoDown supply chain to where the material was sourced. You see the environmental damage being done by poor farming, the child labor being used to harvest the crop, the unhealthy/unsafe working environment in the sewing factory, the poverty level wages, lack of healthcare, and gender inequality that pervades the EcoDown supply chain. EcoDown itself talks about the good things they do in the community and their great corporate culture, but they don't enforce those standards through the supply chain, choosing instead to look the other way in the name of low cost and more importantly profit.

However, when you look down the Patagonia supply chain you find a company striving to do it right all the way through. You see sustainably managed farms producing organic cotton and down that meets the Responsible Down Standard. You see suppliers who treat their employees well and provide a living wage and safe working environments. You see the auditors hired by Patagonia to make sure their suppliers are adhering to these standards. You see the positive impacts enabled by Patagonia's commitment to give back 1% of REVENUE to environmental causes. You see a CEO who does not make more than 200 times the average worker wage. You see a company which refuses to sell out to a conglomerate, grow at an unreasonable pace or go public because they know it will corrupt their values. 

Given this complete clarity at the time of purchase, the choice to support a company like Patagonia over EcoDown becomes simple, and that is our superpower. The power to economically reward good behavior and punish bad. However, today this power remains untapped because we have no visibility into the behavior of the companies we vote for, let alone the companies that make up their supply chain. There is no label, no sign, no index that tells us if a company is good or bad. Think of going to the grocery store before 1990 when nutritional labels were mandated. You had no idea what was in the products you were eating. Now imagine if every product had a corporate citizen label we could use to determine the type of company we were buying from.

Unfortunately, this will never happen, the intricacies of producing such a label and the subjective nature of the scores does not lend itself well to a labeling system, but we can do better and that is why we are launching GoodWell. 

Announcing GoodWell

GoodWell, is more than a company, it’s a movement. A call to action for anyone and everyone who wants to make the world a better place. The company is focused exclusively on one thing — helping consumers make a simple vote for good each and every time they spend their money. 

GoodWell’s simple, yet audacious mission, is to change the world by giving consumers the information they need to support good, caring, conscious companies and avoid bad, greedy, self interested companies. This mission is massive and some would say quixotic and I would agree with them. However, I am so convinced that when given the chance to choose good over bad, most of us will choose good, and if enough of us do, we can change the world. 

Why would this change everything?

Just like us, companies are completely self interested. In fact most business schools and corporate boards still endorse this mindset put forth by Milton Friedman 45 years ago:

“There is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud”

In other words the sole corporate mandate is to act in their own self interest (profit), regardless of the consequences, as long as they stay within the law. This has led to massive exploitation of the world's human and environmental resources, often in the most vulnerable places in, all in the name of reduced cost, growth and profit. 

I deeply hope businesses will follow the example of Patagonia and others who see a different path to corporate prosperity, but I am not convinced this will happen quickly enough. So I am proposing a different approach. A free market, consumer solution which rewards good behavior and punishes bad. A solution that makes being a good corporate citizen more profitable than being a bad one. 

Our ultimate goal is for the GoodWell logo to be a rock solid endorsement of a company and product adhering to reasonable common sense standards which are verified by independent third party auditors

Imagine a world where alongside the Prime checkbox on Amazon there was a GoodWell checkbox, so you could filter out any companies which were not adhering to the standards. A world where you could walk through Target and easily identify a responsibly produced pair of shoes because of the logo above proudly displayed on a box. This would give you confidence that buying those shoes will support good over bad, the environment over waste, safety over cost, fair wages over exploitation, community support over greed ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE SUPPLY CHAIN. 

Your vote for good over bad would impact wages in the USA and Uzbekistan, the environment in Europe and Ethiopia, workplace safety in Venezuela and Vietnam. Sound impossible? It’s not, our consumer spending is the source of all economies globally. It creates power, wealth, wars, politicians, policies, environmental damage, and so much more. 

Collectively we can be most powerful voice for change on the planet if we can only unlock our consumer superpower. GoodWell is on a mission to do just that, empower us all to do the right thing when we spend. 

Join GoodWell today as a Founding Member and help us to unlock the conscious consumer in all of us. 

 

Pete GombertComment