Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘consumerism

What of consumerism, power of consumers…? Any benefits when you let consumers lead?

Consumerism” was a term coined in the 60’s to mean a movement for protecting consumers and pressuring companies to caring for the safety and health of consumers in their products.

Currently, “Consumerism” connote over-consumption, the frenzy with which people keep buying things that they really don’t need or will rarely use. Actually, fans of a brand get very upset when it becomes mainstream…

Apparently, there is a Consumer’s Bill of Rights that was authored by John Kennedy in 1964, and this is an indication that relationship between company and consumers could evolve.

Companies have many more rights that individual citizens lack:  companies have limited liability, they have the right to give in unlimited ways to political campaigns, they can make an employee take a urine test…

Morning exercises at Ojom community primary school, Katine

Photograph: Dan Chung
If a company wants to bring about positive change, should it involve consumers from the outset?
Are consumers rarely engaged in developing a company’s social mission?
Is there any opportunity for higher benefits if business “gets it right” connecting with consumers in the beginning phases?

 Toby Hopwood, Mary Rose Cook, and Zoë Stanton wrote on how companies can benefit if they let consumers lead:

“Few organisations are better at engaging their customers than businesses. Whether it is developing sophisticated insight into audience characteristics or top-quality customer service… the commercial sector still leads the field. Without it, individual businesses could not compete.

So it’s surprising that we don’t always see this level of engagement when businesses set their social missions.

While some do engage their customers, particularly those who must directly and regularly interact with consumers, the relationship is usually one in which business takes the leadership role.

For example, supermarkets stocking green products or utility companies encouraging households to save energy are positive signs. But they are relationships in which business is in the driving seat, with consumers being led – or “nudged” – into positive social change.

Letting consumers lead is something that the public sector is doing with increasing frequency and success.

Local (British) authorities and NHS organisations throughout the country have produced effective, innovative solutions, to issues as thorny as anti-social behavior, harmful drinking and energy efficiency, by engaging the public and letting them shape the agenda.

When we’ve worked with public sector organisations to help tackle difficult social challenges, each case has involved recognition that the people on the receiving end of an initiative cannot always be led into a solution.

If you really want to bring about positive change, you must involve your audience from the outset. By doing this, not only will you deliver social benefits, but create stronger customer relationships and more cost-effective services.

Our work with Barking and Dagenham council is one example.  Collaboration between residents and council staff led to improved waste disposal in the area. Rather than ask us to address a specific issue, our brief was to see how engagement with residents could uncover and solve local problems.

To do this, we developed a method called “conversations for improvement” (CFI), which involves engaging residents, listening to what they have to say and then bringing them together with council staff to co-create ideas for improvements. This approach led the council to find that some residents were confused about how to get rid of bulky waste.

Giving their customers a voice, and the chance to contribute and develop suggestions for how things could be improved, led to innovative ideas, a more effective service and cleaner streets. And beyond the immediate gains to the social environment, it also created a positive relationship between the council and local people. The council is now rolling out the CFI model in a number of localities.

The CFI model works because it enshrines consumer participation. It recognises that since people are experts in their lives and many of the problems that affect them, they should be allowed to contribute to the responses – especially when these involve expectations that they behave in a certain way.

So why don’t businesses tend to involve their customers in defining and devising social missions?

Is it because consumers don’t care or would prefer to be left alone?

Not according to Asda’s Julian Walker-Palin. And even if we accept that some consumers’ intentions to do more to improve society don’t translate into action, there remains a significant proportion of people who will act if they are engaged in the right way.

For example, the Co-operative Bank routinely empowers its customers to lead its social agenda by letting them vote on which courses of action it pursues.

There are other examples where degrees of consumer empowerment have led to a range of benefits for both business and the public.

The first of the seven “pillars” of Marks & Spencer’s acclaimed Plan A was “involving our customers”.

At a local level, Waitrose’s Community Matters scheme, which allows customers to vote for the social initiatives pursued by individual stores, recently won the prime minister’s “big society” award.

Quentin Clark, Waitrose head of sustainability and ethical sourcing, told us that devolving decision-making has resulted in gains for customers, the business and the wider community. Clark said: “Not only does the scheme provide the obvious financial benefit to good causes and charities, but research shows that it also significantly raises our customers’ awareness of what goes on in their local area, helping them feel part of their community. Many of our customers choose to shop with us because they know that we are committed to doing the right thing, and research shows us that the scheme helps enhance our shoppers’ loyalty and trust in our brand.”

Given the opportunity and appetite for business to do well by doing good through consumer collaboration, why don’t we see more?” End of quote

Note:  Post inspired from “The benefits of letting consumers lead” by Toby Hopwood, Mary Rose Cook, and Zoë Stanton for the Guardian Professional Network, on Monday 20 February 2012; guardian.co.uk

Mary Rose Cook and Zoë Stanton are co-founders and managing directors of Uscreates, and Toby Hopwood is a communications associate at Uscreates

Sobriety in family economics  

            There is a growing political economics trend for substituting the traditional steady growth and productivity policies into an economy of sobriety.  The current policies in the European Union States are for lighter public administration, severe budget cuts, and reductions in workers’ salary in order to bring budget deficits and GNP deficits within acceptable margins.  The Slow Food and Slow Cities movements, along with many European communities, are exercising self autonomy in the economic policies of their districts are practicing on a smaller scale the concept of “living better for less”.

            The latest economic downturn is re-confirming that the previous policies are hindrance to global resolutions for global problems.  The middle class has increased three folds within less than two decades.  China and India have added over 300 millions middle class families to the 200 millions in the USA, Europe and Japan.  This quickly increasing number of middle class is legitimately demanding equal standards of living as in the USA, simply because they can afford to purchase the same consumer goods for their comfort and are doing it.  World resources in minerals, oil, and wood are depleting and no longer accessible to sustain the current rate of consumption.

            Regular people are not interested in the concept of “faster is better” or “more performing is better”; they would rather fly safely at more affordable fees; they would rather that customs and airport regulations quicken the pace and alleviate  the hassle. The regular people would rather have moderately performing equipments that last longer and that are more robust under less than standard conditions in the developed nations. Regular people cannot afford to re-invest for products considered obsolete within a couple of years.  Regular people would rather not to have to repaint or maintain their plumbing and electrical lines frequently.

            Regular people would rather have potable water running on schedule; power utilities providing electricity less irregularly. Regular people want taxes be increased on luxury families of high consumption.  Regular people want public transportation arriving on schedule, accessible, and available in cities and in rural areas.  Regular people are not that interested in caviar and luxury items; they need flour, rice, sugar, and seasonal vegetables and fruits marketed locally and not exported overseas.

            Regular people need a wider network of public libraries and public schools.  Regular people want the teachers to be paid right to be retained and compete with private expensive private schools. Regular people need preventive health institutions.

            The industrial nations have got to support sustainable economies in Africa, Latin America, and in the Middle East and desist from mass exploitation of natural resources and human miseries.  Kuwait, Qatar, and Libya are already investing billions in intensive agricultural businesses in Africa; they are renting lands for 99 years and hiring thousands of Africans in jobs they are proficient in and within their own States.

            There is definitely an anthropological crisis:  The traditional growth policies are uneconomical, anti-social, and anti-ecological.  Decentralized economies serving restricted regions are more sustainable and are solicited by citizens. Institutions have to be revamped in that direction and up-down laws are no longer cherished. In fact, less restrictive local laws are the best recourse to taming the monster of global totalitarianism in the making.

            Catastrophic crisis are not teaching anything in behavioral change: they simply increase the level of fear, anxiety, and apathy. Continuing in the same trend is tantamount of letting this monster of totalitarianism starting sniffing around for another round of human calamities.

            Most probably totalitarian regimes, established in order to control outbursts and uneasiness, will mushroom in industrialized States because 1) they can afford these kinds of institutions, 2) they have already the sophisticated and all-encompassing control institutions, and 3) they have practiced it several times in many nations within the last decades.  Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union experienced it efficiently.  France applied it to spread its public secular system of education in order to unify its nation. The USA applied it during the two Administrations of George W. Bush.

            Currently, China is the most effective totalitarian regime.  Millions of workers are transferred and displaced by a simple order of the politburo; millions succumb to eugenic (killing) practices on simple obscure laws; millions die in mining accidents and famine; gigantic dams are disturbing millions of people without recourse or participation by the citizens.

            The third world States will always enshrine dictators, state political parties, and oligarchies but they will never afford totalitarian regimes for lack of sustainable institutions.  The best you might expect of third world States is organized chaos and periodic clamping down on dissidents.  There will be time when the “industrialized citizens” will opt to immigrate to Third World States and live in sobriety just to recapture the taste of freedom and liberty.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

August 2020
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