World Spirituality as I understand it includes a practice of right livelihood, conscious business. The overarching perspective gives us the framework in which we recognize that the ethical center at the heart of work is Love, the force of evolution itself. It is from this capacity that our own individual work lives have an ethical livelihood and from the collective ethos of an organization that it has (or fails to have) an ethical brand.
The world may be evolving better, more ethical, businesses. How, specifically? One possible future: the Internet will empower consumer to hold brands responsible to ethical standards by punishing those which do not deliver. Businesses, anticipating a shift in power in relationship to consumers, will begin to act with greater responsibility rather than be punished.
Martin Lindstrom, once named one of the “World’s 100 Most Influential People,” by Time Magazine, tells us that the world of product branding is changing. In an article in Fast Company, he says that he predicts that Wikileaks sorts of organizations will emerge in the future which are focused on keeping brands honest. Smart people in business today have to realize the importance of putting ethics first. He writes:
Last year, I began a study of 2,000 consumers in which I asked for their ethical perspectives [on branding]. Their advice proved invaluable. We would be wise to take note of it:
- Don’t do anything to kids and consumers that you would not do to your own children, friends, and family.
- Every time you launch a campaign, a new product, or a service, secure an “ethical” sign-off from your target group. Develop your own independent consumer panel (a representative target audience) and disclose the perception of the product, as well as the reality. Let the consumers make the final call.
- Align perception with reality. Your talents might very well lie in brilliantly creating convincing perceptions, but how do they stack up against the reality? If there’s a mismatch, one or the other must be adjusted in order for them to be in sync.
- Be 100% transparent. Nothing less. The consumer needs to know what you know about them. Furthermore, they must be told exactly how you intend to use the information. If they don’t like what they see, they need a fair and easy way to opt out.
- Almost any product or service has a downside, so don’t hide it. Tell it as it is. Be open and frank, and communicate the negatives in a simple and straightforward way.
- All your endorsements and testimonials must be real–don’t fake them.
- Does your product have a built-in expiration date? If so, be open about it and communicate it in a visible, clear, and easily understood manner.
- Avoid fueling peer pressure among kids. Bear in mind you’d hate for your kids to come under such pressure.
- Be open and transparent about the environmental impact of your brand (including its carbon footprint and sustainability factors).
- Do not hide or over-complicate any legal language you must place in your ads or on your packaging. These should be treated just like any other commercial message, using a simple, easy-to-understand language.
- My advice: The smart brand players out there should spend the next few years cleaning up their house. Honestly, you won’t find it that difficult. Furthermore, you won’t be forced to reject an offer that could fast track you to retirement. The worst thing that can happen is you’ll sleep better at night. Not a bad proposition, I’m sure you’d agree.
I hope Lindstrom is right about all this, but it is just a prediction. In order for this better world order to emerge, it takes individuals and groups to make decisions which can bring this about. People need to choose ethics, responsibility, social consciousness. A spiritual perspective which puts Love at the heart of individual work and business processes is a good way to start.