It is no secret that companies embrace social responsibility for a variety of reasons. They can be motivated by profit or public relations. They can be motivated by genuine concern. At any rate, more companies are making social responsibility a priority. The funny thing is that social responsibility works both ways.
Pale Blue Earth is a Utah company that sells USB rechargeable batteries. These are lithium-ion batteries built on rechargeable technology. Social responsibility – or at least one aspect of it – is a main component of the company’s mission and vision. They seek to both reduce alkaline battery consumption and contribute to environmental causes.
That is all well and good, but who are their customers? And why do those customers buy Pale Blue Earth batteries? Some of them undoubtedly share the company’s social responsibility goals. Others buy the batteries because they are great products. The point is that the social responsibility waters begin to muddy when you mix company and consumer motivations.
1. Consumers Say They Want to Help
No one would dare question a consumer who claims to want to help make the world a better place. So it should be no surprise that a 2018 study conducted in the U.S. and UK revealed that 96% of consumers feel their actions can make a difference in the world. In addition, 88% say they want the companies they do business with to help them in their efforts to make things better.
Those are shocking statistics if you compare them to how we actually live our lives. Unfortunately, what we say frequently does not line up with what we do. This explains why companies struggle with how much emphasis to place on social responsibility. They know their customers say they care, but they are not so sure if that’s what their customers really believe.
2. Say Goodbye the Plastic
Since the start of the environmental movement back in the late 1970s, petroleum has been in the crosshairs of environmental activists. For some reason, they just cannot find anything good about it. If they could do away with petroleum entirely, they would. But what if they did? We could say goodbye to plastic.
It is interesting to watch environmental activists protest Big Oil with all the passion they can muster, then turn around and check social media on their smartphones. If it were not for Big Oil, they wouldn’t have smartphones. That is just the reality. A significant percentage of the components that go into to make a phone are petroleum based. Get rid of petroleum and you can kiss your phone goodbye.
3. The Recycling Scam
The previously mentioned survey included recycling among the things people believe they can do to help make the world a better place. But because people don’t pay attention to what happens around them, very few know that more than 90% of the products collected in curbside recycling programs end up in landfills.
It is one thing to say you support efforts to keep plastic out of landfills. But if you keep buying plastic food containers, you are buying containers that ultimately end up with all the rest of the trash. A better way to attack the problem is to stop using plastic food containers.
The whole point of this post is to challenge the idea of social responsibility and how we go about achieving it. A close inspection of our efforts will probably never be conducted because it would likely reveal that many of those efforts are in vain. Social responsibility works in both directions. And unfortunately, we consumers are not keeping up our end of the bargain.