We First: An Invitation to Build a Better World
By Simon Mainwaring
Founder, We first
Let me start out by saying this is a big picture blog. I am seeking your support for a movement to build a better world. Thatâs a sizeable request, I know, but let me explain because this will be important to you both personally and professionally.Several years ago, I read a speech Bill Gates gave at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He asked corporate leaders to come up with new models to justify doing business in the poorest regions of the world. He exhorted that corporations have an obligation to raise the standards of living throughout the world, even if they cannot capture their usual profit margins. Gates called it âcreative capitalismâ and he challenged the business world to get involved.
Does this message resonate with you? Do you think the world could be in better shape were capitalism to function better?
I did. Gates inspired me and I began thinking. Since then, I have devoted myself to formulating ideas that could fundamentally alter how we practice business. I call it We First capitalism in opposition to Me First capitalism. It is based on the premise that we are now living in a complex, interconnected, globalized world of 7 billion people in which our economic decisions and business practices ripple everywhere to impact millions of other people. We can no longer accept that capitalism functions as an engine of selfish short-term wealth creation, winner-take-all, profit-for-profitâs sake system of commerce. Capitalism cannot remain an elite economic activity whose results provide happiness and prosperity for a limited group of stakeholders, leaving billions of others living without opportunity or hope, and our planet in shambles.
My purpose in formulating We First capitalism is to persuade corporations and businesses of all sizes that we all must accept greater social responsibility. Building a better world must become what our businesses do every day as part and parcel of our operations, not something we do after we make our profits. The scale of crises in the world needs more than charitable contributions reluctantly squeezed out of pre-tax net profits. Business itself must become a smarter engine of constructive contribution to solving the worldâs problems, not just a mindless motor churning out profits from our consumer culture.
In recent years, we have seen many of the leading companies in the world start to tackle their social responsibility. Brands like Nike, Starbucks, Pepsi, Patagonia, and even the largest brands like P&G and Unilever are responding with programs to implement sustainable manufacturing, develop Fair Trade suppliers who support indigent farmers, and assist NGOs on the ground not just with their money but with their expertise, distribution resources, and leadership. We First is not wishful thinking for two reasons. First, research shows that consumers are increasingly attracted to companies that practice social responsibility. They prefer to do business with socially-oriented companies and they are even willing to switch brands to a product that supports a cause if the price is about equal, especially Moms and Millennials who are the major markets for many consumer products.
Secondly, social media is connecting up consumers and empowering them as never before to have a voice and communication outlets to talk back to irresponsible businesses. Through their fan pages on Facebook and twitterstreams, consumers have new opportunities to protest against the bad actors of the business world, to organize boycotts and buycotts, to reward the good and punish the offenders. New smart phone apps are giving consumers the tools to scan barcodes and get information right in the shopping aisle about a productâs ecological and social footprint so they can make smarter choices about which companies they want to support.
So whether you are a corporate executive, manager, entrepreneur, or small business owner, the movement to temper capitalism and bring social responsibility to the forefront is going to impact you and your business. If you are looking for guidance as to how to respond, I hope you will order We First and join other individuals and companies in building a better world.
Simon Mainwaring is the founder of We First, a social branding consultancy that helps companies, non-profits and consumer groups build a better world through changes to the practice of capitalism, branding, and consumerism using social technology. You can find more about We First capitalism and its principles in his book, We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World (Palgrave/Macmillan, June 2011) at www.wefirstbook.com
Thanks, Simon! It was easy to feature what you’re doing. I know your head is connected to your heart.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!