A new social contract between brands and consumers

Image: Craig Damrauer at www.morenewmath.com

Many academics, authors and bloggers are taking a hard look at the practice of capitalism with a view to a more sustainable future that ensures prosperity for more people both here in the United States and around the developing world. This necessarily involves an examination of the private sector and the relationship between brands and consumers in terms of whose best interests are being served.

Yet anyone who criticizes present practices should also assume the responsibility for providing a viable alternative so the discussion moves the conversation forward. That is the purpose of this post, to provide an outline of a new social contract between brands and consumers that enables both parties (and the world at large) to benefit from the social technology that now connects them.

The following ten points serves as a foundation for the We First concept but it is not meant to be definitive but rather a starting point for a conversation about the respective roles that brand and consumers play in a more sustainable practice of capitalism. As such I invite you to interrogate, shape and finesse the points below with a view to the social licence under which brands now operate and the increased responsibility that consumers must now assume if they truly want a better future.

The following We First social contract is based on the belief that selfish Me First thinking hurts business and the lives of millions of people around the world. It asserts that a brighter future depends on an integration of profit and purpose within the private sector. To achieve this, companies and customers must become partners in social change to build a better world. It believes the following principles should guide our business practices:

1. We believe companies have a right to innovation, entrepreneurship and profit making while consumers have a right to a healthy society and planet to live on.

2. We recognize an interdependent, global community requires an expanded definition of self-interest that acknowledges the needs of all inhabitants of the planet.

3. We define success through prosperity that means the well being of many, not the wealth of a few.

4. We believe that future of profit is purpose.

5. We believe that the interests of companies and consumers are best served through a sustainable practice of capitalism — economically, morally, ethically, environmentally, and socially.

6. We believe that corporations and consumers owe each other an equal duty to operate with transparency, authenticity and accountability.

7. We believe that social technology, business, and shopping have the potential to change our world through new modes of engagement, collaboration, and contribution.

8. We believe the values that inform our daily practice of capitalism include: sustainability, fairness of rewards, fiscal responsibility, accountability, purposefulness, engagement, and global citizenship.

9. We believe that corporations and consumers are duty-bound to serve as custodians of global well being for this and future generations.

10. We believe that the private sector must cooperate, collaborate and coordinate with governments and NGOs to create a unified force for social good.

Please share any thoughts, objections or additions to this list in the spirit of framing a working document that is substantive and actionable. If the spirit of a We First community I also draw your attention to the leadership thinking in this area including B Corporation’s Declaration of Interdependence, the Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque, and Harvard Business Review articles by Dominic BartonMichael Porter & Mark Kramer.

By working together to re-frame our thinking we can start to shift our behavior which is the first steps to a practice of capitalism that is both sustainable and fairer for all. Fire away with any thoughts.