Enough of the “Me First” Economy, It's Time for “We First” Enough of the “Me First” Economy, It's Time for “We First”

Enough of the “Me First” Economy, It's Time for “We First”

by Alex Goldmark

June 11, 2011

"Consumers are guilty of the me-first mentality along with businesses. Consumers need to shift from mindless to mindful consumption." And now's the time, in large part because of technology, he argues. "There is a lot of technology at our disposal now. Like GoodGuide [no affiliation with GOOD] which lets you scan the barcodes of products to get social impact measurements, to joining groups that punish brand deviants."

"Every purchase needs to have a contributory portion," he says, as though that's easily implemented. "We have the opportunity to build in a contribution to social change into a retail shopping aisle," which could mean something like the Product RED campaign, where products are branded as socially motivated, or it could be systemic with each transaction. The technology is there for this already, with companies like SwipeGood, which rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and donates the difference. As Google Wallet and other programs of its ilk roll out, we'll start making purchases—and contributions—with the bump of a phone. So, Mainwairing wants us to be ready for an age in which doing good can be so easily integrated into basic consumer transactions, that the default is to help, not ignore, social problems, as a part of our everyday lives. 

I could see a world where Levi's or Nike makes a portion of profits go to causes their customers pick. It's certainly viable for smaller companies. I've heard of at least one new startup based on this very principle (stay tuned for details). But will BP or Exxon really be pressured by Facebook status updates into channeling a portion of sales to solar technology? 

"The Achilles heel is this," he says. "If consumers do not use their new voice to pressure companies to change then nothing will change." So, get tweeting about what irks you. "Unless the mom in the shopping aisle with three kids hears about Nestle endangering orangutans and chooses another chocolate and makes her voice heard about it, then nothing will change."

So friends, as always, it's on us. But we also have better tools than ever before.

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Enough of the “Me First” Economy, It's Time for “We First”