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Your BO could change the world

The power of consumers is reaching superhero status. It’s not exactly a new phenomenon, but social media has connected us so effortlessly that organizing our purchasing habits today is hardly a challenge. Our dollars have a voice like never before. It’s collective consumerism, and it can pack a punch.

Retailers were the original collective consumer.  It was simply called wholesale. They’d buy a lot, so the manufacturer would cut them a good rate. Until recently, us lowly customers were destined to pay what the retailer deemed. No volume, no voice.

But now,  movements like Carrotmob have given socially conscious consumers that voice. Carrotmob is a self-described “network of consumers who buy products in order to reward businesses who are making the most socially responsible decisions.” They organize a big whack of people to show up at a small business on a given day and buy something; the catch is that the business has to have pledged the highest percentage of their revenues that day (out of those approached) to ‘greening’ their operations.

A recent effort in Vancouver resulted in Salt Spring Coffee pledging an incredible 110% of their revenues on one day.

Getting everyone you ever met to show up to a coffee shop on a Sunday to affect social change is a great start, but it’s limiting. It’s one coffee shop in one location, and requires a very dedicated group to get there. The online environment holds the true growth potential for these movements.

A number of organizations are demonstrating the potential of online purchase networking. Groupon and Groupswoop are two examples of companies that solicit major discounts from shops, restaurants, and bars in exchange for volume sales. Sales they can guarantee thanks to a growing network of bargain-happy online consumers.

But I’ve yet to see anyone really use it for socially conscious purchasing. I know Carrotmob has made noise about it, but no evidence that it’s in the works.

Would it be possible to organize, say, one million people, to buy their next three deodorant sticks from the company that pledges 50% of their profits to environmental change? Maybe we sign a contract, so that every two months, $3.50 is automatically deducted from my account and I get sent a new stick. So, that’s 3 million guaranteed sales, all directly delivered with no retailer or marketing expense.  But in exchange, the company has to figure out a way to be zero waste by the end of that term. If they don’t, they’re in breach of contract, and will no doubt have a million irate customers banging down their door…not so good for reputation.

So I’m in. That’s one. 999,999 to go. Who’s with me?

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