The customer is always right… at least when it comes to social responsibility.

Posted on March 1, 2013


In a previous post, I went over a few apps that will help everyone be more socially conscious and do more good, including an app that helps consumers fight modern slavery by getting in touch with different merchants and an app that helps consumers find stores that sell Fair Trade Certified products. Recently, Armchair Advocates came out with an article with more app suggestions for the socially conscious consumers. Oxfam America also has Behind the Brands, which is an online scorecard of the world’s top 10 food and beverage companies’ agricultural sourcing policies. According to their website, the scores given are based on public information and focus on seven themes: Transparency, Women, Workers, Farmers Land, Water, and Climate. The goal of Behind the Brands is not to deter consumers from purchasing products offered by the companies scored, but to empower consumers to hold these companies accountable for their supply chains.

I think that all of these emphasize how dependent companies are on their customers. Customers can be consumers outside the company who buy the companies’ products, business partners, and even their own employees. I’m not a business person, but I think that it’s important for companies to listen to all of their customers in order to succeed.

Imagine these: Consumers demanding for transparency from companies, especially when it comes to how their products are sourced and produced. Business partners requiring companies to be socially responsible before considering a partnership. Employees and the companies’ sources, such as farmers, fishermen, and cocoa pickers (among many others), asking for just compensation. Companies will have to be more accountable for how their supply chains work, from the sourcing of their raw materials to the final production that reaches consumers, if all of these become reality.

It is definitely easier said than done, especially in a time when economies around the world are unstable. Many people look for the cheapest products they could afford, and others accept meager pays in order for their families to survive. Think about it, though. If we as consumers demand that products be sourced and produced responsibly, won’t that require companies to pay just compensation to their employees and sources? That would mean then that those employees and sources will have enough money to live healthier lives, therefore becoming a more efficient workforce. They would also be able to acquire better education, allowing for growth and efficiency within the company, or even starting their own businesses and competing with other companies that will make for healthier economies. Most importantly, with enough and just compensation, employees and sources of companies become consumers. They will have enough money to provide for themselves and their families by purchasing products from companies they believe in. This would in turn boost company income and allow companies to keep improving their processes, and it will also further improve economies and hopefully bring more people out of poverty.

So it is a cycle. Someone just has to take the first step to get this cycle going. I think that as present consumers, we have the power to take that step towards improvement. Should we expect overnight success? No. I couldn’t think of a single company or person that could just change everything overnight. It is an ongoing process, and we all have to be both patient and determined.