Western Capitalism is not working as well as it should. Growth is sluggish, inequality is rampant and people are more politically divided than ever before. Trust in the media, politicians and banks is at an all time low and populists that are more likely to exacerbate these issues are in power. But populists like Donald Trump are more of a symptom of the problem than the problem itself. Capitalism is not working and in an age when multinationals are more powerful than governments, it may be corporations that lead the change.
In consumer capitalism, the customer is always right and a growing number of customers are expecting more from big business. They want sustainable, organic and ethically sourced goods and they’re willing to pay for it. It’s not just supply chain mangers that have to adapt to new demands. Public relations teams are getting increasingly political.
Younger consumers are eager for their favourite brands to take stances on social issues evidenced by the new wave of politically inspired advertising. It’s not just the usual suspects like Benny and Jerry’s, big corporations like Nike and Gillette have made the headlines with their recent adverts.
Employees too are demanding more. They want more than a pay check in employment they want purpose. Millennial are the first generation who prioritise purpose at work rather than just money
Just recently Wal-Mart, JP Morgan and Chase pledged their firms purpose was no longer solely to serve their shareholders but their other stakeholders as well. The announcements may be tactical, in a hyper informed world CEOs must at least try to appear as if they are in the business of more than increasing shareholder value. But it’s not just consumers that want to see a friendly face to capitalism even investing; a traditionally cold hearted rational pursuit is experiencing new ethical demands.
There has been a rise of ethical investing online and polls that indicate many more would invest if they felt they were making the world a better place as well as themselves richer. Companies are increasing their Corporate Social Responsibility. This growth is not as fast as PR, which is arguably indicative that the growth of social responsibility may be akin more to green washing than a move towards social responsibility.
The reality is we can only expect companies to be social responsible up to a point. Breaking into ethically grey areas is often a cost effective means to keep prices competitive and failing to stay competitive could mean a business goes under hence the need for regulations.
But businesses need to shape up as well. Consumers want more responsible business, but not more green washing and empty PR campaigns. Even crap companies have mission statements and if organisations want to succeed in a modern world then they’re going to have to get on board with growing demands. If businesses are to be responsible, then it needs responsible government to regulate it. Governments need to work with each other to prevent international organisations flouting regulations, dodging taxes and from exploiting LEDCs. Anti Trust laws must be protected for the sake of the consumer and the worker.