Intentional Consumerism is, first and foremost, about expressing consumer preferences that are informed by the behaviors of those with whom we do business. It is how we vote every day with every dollar we spend. It is how we move towards a promising future, with each and every transaction. It emphasizes free trade together with fair trade. It demonstrates the power of a more proactive variation with respect to the doctrine Buyer Beware.
There is real potential in such an exercise of ethical consumerism, sometimes called consumer sovereignty; from the super- charged data driven boycott, to the casual expression of preferences. Intentional Consumerism is, to some extent, rooted in the indignation of thinking men and women.
How long have you been on hold? Does the company that wants your business pay its CEO what a thousand customer service workers make? Is the company providing your mobile phone service an enemy of net-neutrality and thereby the First Amendment? Is the nearby store limiting employee compensation to poverty wages? Does a politician, taking campaign contributions from big finance, have your best interests at heart? Should the person behind a corporate policy, that could be foreseen as having the effect of sickening, injuring or killing people, somehow be immune from criminal liability?
When an integrity challenged official doesn’t enforce anti-trust regulations, it may mean consumers should exercise their right to avoid patronizing those businesses that also cheat by ignoring such guidelines, by skirting the regulations, or by flaunting their lawlessness disregard. To what extent does a business, vying for your patronage, offload expenses and potential liabilities to the taxpayer and future generations? Rather than letting bad actors calibrate our thinking through relentless messaging, you and I, as educated consumers, are certainly under no obligation to support such unconscionable practices. In fact, we shouldn’t.
Ultimately, the only way to serve the national security interests of the United States in the long run is through the proliferation of authentic democracies worldwide. This authenticity must begin at home by bringing intentional consumerism to bear in curbing the wildly disproportionate corporate influence. If the business community is serious about balancing the interests of all stakeholders, it will keep pace with evolution and transition to a new corporate model whereby the influence of self-centered speculators is diminished and true augmentation is achieved through increased employee ownership and a benevolent corporate culture.
What if the consent of the governed were expressed through our preferences within the open arenas of commerce? What if the authoritarian powerhouses had no place to peddle their wares thus breaking the stranglehold the oligarchy has on our country? There are numerous obstacles to building a benevolent corporate culture. There are also ways to power past the often detrimental influence of the shareholder rights movement. For now, suffice it to say, if you are an entrepreneur that is service as well as profit motivated, there are options for building a company culture that fulfills both requirements. If your state does not proactively provide for the formation of benefit corporations, then seriously consider incorporating elsewhere.
Consumers also have tremendous power to effect this type of change. We may engage in traditional boycotts or simply act in accordance with a preference. How we direct our spending is at the heart of intentional consumerism. All leverage depends largely on where we decide to place the fulcrum. Is the frictionless buying experience most important to us? For example, do we value the one-click path of least resistance over the support of a local business? What about the human interaction?
We can effect lasting change simply by asking: “Is this business employee owned?” We need to understand that deep discounts and high dividends are not brought about through the generosity of a company. They are most often provided at the expense of over-tasked employees that are trying to make ends meet on poverty wages. We should always be mindful of this dynamic. Always ask yourself: “Does the company culture placate the few or benefit a larger humanity?”
An Employee Owned Benefit Corporation (EOBC) is one in which the employees and retirees hold a supermajority interest of at least two-thirds, thus limiting the holdings and influence of outside investors to a maximum of one third. The employees and retirees have the exclusive right to express their collective preference, with respect to local, national, and global priorities, by committing at least ten percent of their company’s profits for a clearly articulated public benefit.
They function corporately to support, rather than exploit the commonwealth. They pay their fair share into the public treasury. They build authentic community through their dedication to enhancing a quality of mind that reflects a science (the domain of facts), a philosophy (the domain of meanings), and a religion (the domain of values) that is truly commensurate with the spiritual, intellectual, and societal development of a greater humanity.
We, as consumers, can make it happen. We can use our purchasing power to put our enterprises on the right path. It will take concerted effort, alternative networks, and skillful coordination. It will take Intentional Consumerism.