Photo by Andreas Prafecke, License: CC by 2.0
Firstly, I’m really sorry for not having written for 2 weeks; public exams loom and have vacuumed away my time at an unprecedented rate, as of late. Due to these iGCSEs, I’ll be on and off for the next 2 months. Sorry for any inconvenience!
Hour after hour, day after day, month after month, it seems that people are continually finding new reasons to chastise corporations with malicious intentions. It’s a sad indictment of the society we live in that most of these complaints have logical backing behind them; companies continue to act with a complete and utter disregard for their fellow humans every day. However, this begs the question: why exactly do these companies do it? The reason is one word that has become synonymous with the capitalist society of today: profit. Essentially, the capitalist system rewards, at the most fundamental level, the accumulation of capital, and for this reason, companies have been incentivised to a greater degree than ever before to pursue profits, no matter the costs. Why is this a problem? The answer is obvious. In a civilised society, it’s a basic axiom that there’s more to life than financial gain. We have the environment, for example, which is being degraded at a faster rate than ever before. We have poor people in developing countries who have to settle for subpar wages and atrocious working conditions. Most importantly, we have basic morals; morals that guide us in the right direction, morals that tell us that what these companies are doing is wrong.
What these morals don’t do so well, unfortunately, is to teach us exactly how to bring about the change that we want to see in the world. It’s very well having a vision, but until you actually carry it out, it remains just that; a vision, forever consigned to the confines of your imagination. We’ve all seen many an angry Facebook post or tweet about sweatshops, or environmental damage, or worker exploitation, but what we haven’t seen so much is people’s actions to ameliorate these issues. It may sound like, till now, I’m simply spouting a load of mindless conjecture, but let me ask you this: how many of those companies that you’ve complained about have actually, really, changed their ways? Many of Nike’s workers still live in horrendously unsafe working conditions, more than a decade after a massive public outcry. It took bankruptcy to stop the torrent of harmful gases emitted by Peabody Energy. Most horrendously, more companies than I can feasibly name continue to exploit their workers, safe from the omniscient camera of the news. No matter how strongly worded your Facebook post or tweet is, it’s just not going to get companies to change. In fact, there’s only one thing that can do just that.
At the beginning of this article, I stated that profit is the only thing which companies really care about. As a society, what we can do is to tap into this greed for money; to use their material wants to serve the greater good. How can we do this? Simple. A complete and utter boycott of any companies who break the moral code that binds all entities in a civilised society. In today’s age, the excuse that some products are unique to a specific company has been completely and utterly blown out of the water; never before has there been a greater choice of bread, or jam, or whatever you may want or need. Whilst I acknowledge that many companies may have acted in an immoral way away from the watchful eye of the newspaper, the least we can do is to stop purchasing products or services from those companies that we know act in a malfeasant way. Not only does this cut a company’s profits, but it also acts as a deterrent to any company who would even entertain the thought of acting in a similar way. This is the perfect carrot and stick application; if these corporations act in a moral way, everyone’s happy, but if they don’t, we’re just as happy to move on to another one.
It’s not as if this sort of idea hasn’t been proven to work in the past, either. It’s been well documented that firms such as General Mills are having to change their ways, not because they were acting immoral previously, but because the ideas of their consumer have drastically changed. These changing consumer preferences of course reduce company profits, and as such, it is imperative for them that they change to suit their consumer. If just consumer preferences can force companies to change in this way, think of what a large scale boycott of all the products that that company was involved in producing would do. It’s both a scary and an inspirational thought; we, the people, could make the old adage of “the consumer is always right” true once more, just through a bit of product stewardship. All it would take is a little willpower and an unbreakable desire to make our world a better place. On first glance, it doesn’t seem at all that hard.
Why don’t we try it?
Shrey Srivastava, 15