A new kind of corporate social responsibility

Last summer, I attended a talk by Robert Egger (of DC Central Kitchen fame), hosted by the Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships. Although he talked about a wide variety of things, what stood out was his take on the future of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Right now, CSR is interchangeable with corporate philanthropy, the practice of giving a portion of profits to some charitable cause. Sometimes it’s great, like Newman’s Own, which donates 100% of its profits to charity.  Sometimes, not so much. Remember the Susan G. Komen/KFC debacle known as “Buckets for the Cure?” In most cases, CSR is just corporate greenwashing – a cover up for pollution or treating workers poorly or ___ (you fill in the blank).

Egger believes that Millennials will drive corporations to make products and services that are ethically created, have minimal environmental impacts, and are generally good for the world. How? Through exercising our purchasing power. Buying better products. Making the sustainable choice at the store.

Millennials are already proving to be a driving force for the green economy. Of our generation, 56% of us are willing to spend more money for the product that guarantees us that it was  ethically or responsibly produced. The same Harris poll showed that a quarter of Millennials are increasing their spending on green and sustainable products.

Robert Egger’s comments have changed the way I look at spending my money. Where I used to search for the cheapest thing that would meet my needs, I’m now on a quest to replace one product at a time with a choice that is better for the planet and for the people that live on it.

Guided by The Good Guide, I started with dish soap, since I’d run out of it at the time.  The Good Guide has expanded it’s rating system to not only tell you if a product contains harmful toxins and how it impacts the environment, but also it now reports on the social impact of that product – how the  company treats its employees, it’s transparency with governance, and the relationships it forms with its community. The social aspect is even more important to me, because I’m very supportive of a higher minimum wage and better treatment for workers.

After doing my research, I’m spending only $0.50 to $1.00 more every two months for dish soap. Not a bad price to pay for a better world.