guilt free accumulation (importance of causes & social issues)

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“Culture is an elevated expression of the inner voice which the different peoples of the Earth have heard in the depths of their being, a voice which conveys the vibrant compassion and wisdom of the cosmic life. For different cultures to engage in interaction is to catalyze each other’s souls and foster mutual understanding.”

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Daisaku Ikeda

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Let me get my main points out of the way:

  • I believe, unequivocally, businesses should operate in ways that are conducive to a healthy planet and healthier society.
  • I don’t believe businesses need to market such operations and initiative. In addition, i DON’T recommend they do so unless they are 100% committed to it. not 99%, 100%.
  • Despite gobs of research about how young people (Millennials) prefer buying from businesses associated with sustainability & causes I don’t believe the majority would actually pay more nor do I believe it is a true deep-seated ‘preference’ (it is more about assuaging ‘guilt’ – read on for explanation).

Anyway. Let me get to my points. There is a lot of research coming out suggesting the importance of Causes & Social Involvement in consumer choices and what they value. At its most base level this discussion is about cultural & societal concepts tied to future desires <and behavior> of people. It is kind of guessing <in an educated thoughtful way> how people will want to behave with regard to larger Planet-type issues and discussing what behavior will make them happy <from a Maslow type perspective> in the future <and the value associated with it>.

This is good type thinking, not simply mental masturbation.

By the way. Thinking about the future type stuff can be Jetsons type pie in the sky type thinking or it can be more pragmatic ‘rising generations with existing perceptions and how will they act in the future’ type thinking. I tend to be more pragmatic. I do so because it is fun. It is fun in that every every generation rising <young to old> rebel against the norms & ‘standards’ of the older more established generations and as we view ‘trends’ & research it becomes easy to confuse simple rebellion rhetoric and true desires that affect behavior.

Regardless. The windows exist and if you can identify the underlying attitudinal shifts you can be successful by offering things that tap into this attitude <and you can reap the benefits of their behavior>.

Let me get the contrarian conclusion out of the way:

  • most people only care about Causes & planet to a point (despite what they say). The majority of young people say they care about Causes with regard to brand choice is out of guilt, not depth of caring. This is NOT to suggest social causes & caring about the planet *& sustainability are not important just that there is a gap between that importance to a individual and other things that matter when decide to make choices & do things. Altruism has limits to the everyday people.
  • most people care about personal wealth & lifestyle. The majority of young people still want to accumulate money & things they just don’t want to be seen as greedy as older generations. You would have to be blind, deaf and dumb to miss the attitude among the young that older generations are greedy. That’s easy. The hard part is that we old folk flippantly disregard this attitude as the naiveté of youth. Silly us old folk. The young DO recognize the value of accumulating wealth and the benefits that come along with it, they just don’t want to do it the same way. Conversely, it is silly to not recognize young people want shit – things, money & recognition (yes, they are capitalists too>.

No matter how we may want to couch attitudes in some trite platitudes — people will always want to be valued and fairly compensated for the value they provide. The future challenge is how to let the Reptilian brain ‘accumulate wealth’ and increase personal value all the while balanced with a moralistic <semi altruistic> belief that ‘I want to be fair’ <at its most hedonistic shallow level it would actually be ‘how can I become wealthy and not look like a greedy jerk’>.

Trendwatching in 2013 called itguilt free consumption.’

I imagine the more positive slant on it is a revitalization of some sense of altruism or fairness while still consuming. People, especially younger people, are feeling conflicted between their desire to earn & spend and their aspiration to do the right thing. They are looking for products and services that will deliver value and quality while, at the same time, provide reassurance that their ‘accumulating’ is not seen as greedy or doing a level of ‘harm’ to the greater good <note: that ‘level’ is an individually driven assessment & typically not a societal standard>.

guilt free accumulationTrendwatching researchers suggest that consumers were experiencing guilt over how they spend, and on what they spend it on, which means they will look at how companies conduct their business, from where they source their products and whether they are engaged in socially-responsible initiatives.

Here is where the cynical me steps in.

The key to addressing consumer guilt is to identify the choices that cause the consumer the most concern and “absolve” them of the guilt.

Once again. This doesn’t mean ‘me’ desires go away. It, in its most simplistic sense, is suggesting a ‘guilt free’ aspect to the desire to accumulate wealth or things. Cynically, a person seeks an implied ‘balance’ —  a bargaining with a desire to accumulate.

In a non-cynical way someone has added a belief if that a ‘me’ can make more, earn more & and accumulate/have more and feel good about it if the ‘optimal end game’ is connected to a greater ‘we’ aspect <environment, society, sharing of that which is accumulated with less fortunate>. This mental bargaining is an attempt to alleviate the guilt that gnaws at the conscience of those who, mostly with good intent, want to do the best they can and accumulate the most wealth they can.

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Guilt upon the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal.”

Robert South

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Wealth & consuming is achieved with a balance of ‘what I could have had, but shared.’ This shared aspect shows an innate sacrifice of ‘me’, but not at the expense of success <or actualization>. Instead it shows a sharing of individual success. Successful wealth management <growth> shows ‘not too much’ by ‘I could have had more but I don’t.’

It also meets a Maslow thought: ‘I am successful – not everyone can be successful – therefore by being as good as I can be (which is better than many people) I am contributing to the greater good for those who cannot do what I can do.’

All the psychological mumbo jumbo aside. Guilt free accumulation, despite sounding like some moral relativism, actually does deliver a sense of fairness — fair to me and we. It’s not straight up altruism but its a version of individualistic altruism.

I called this basic attitudinal concept Community Individualism in 2010. And I still call it that. The seeds of this type of thinking have been planted and while it will most likely not prosper in current adult generations it will thrive in younger rising generations. It will be <at least in my eyes> the prevalent psycho-graphic attitude every business will need to attend to in the future.

Hey. Interestingly if you google my ‘community individualism’ concept you will find a number of really well written articles and intellectual papers outlining the battle <tension> between ‘community’ and ‘individualism.’

I say interestingly for 2 reasons:

1. Because I believe there is an entire rising generation who is answering the battle for “us” <versus just ‘me’>. They are living it and have grasped it and are embodying how to be and do both. We <older folk> could not figure it out. They have.

2. I am the only one, I have found, who believes there is no tension, but rather an embracing, between community & individualism in this next younger generation.

Anyway. ‘Community Individualism’ or “Enlightened Individuality.” I will not bore you with everything I have written but give some relevant highlights to align everyone on my thinking.

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global cirizen kidsThe post millennial generation (The Global Generation – others call it “Z”) will have been preceded by the two extremes of community and individualism. The worldwide web will enable a higher level of intimacy between cultures and globally dispersed local communities (or maybe, more specifically, individuals). We see this emerging even today (it just has not matured). Not surprisingly, this technology has transformed our worlds – empowering people with access to extensive circles of population as well as connecting in surprisingly personal and intimate ways.

My thoughts may seem extreme … but I believe the Millennial generation is “too far down the path” to be the Global Generation. They were the early adopters of a web based global community aspect and there will certainly be “cusp” generational citizens, but as a whole they are being bombarded with the vocal minority and don’t have the global counterbalance (I guess what I mean by that is I believe Millenials will still fall back on country cultural cycles as the subconscious place to go). Millennials will be open to a global community (which is the reason why I believe the Global Generation will be successful as they follow in their footsteps).

Remember.

Generations are not set by birth, but by accumulated experience over a lifetime. As Millennials will deal with a Crisis, the Global Generation will deal with the aftermath.

This balance of community and individuality will permit this generation to better accept and respect the choices made by individuals globally and yet strengthen local communities (I actually believe that will be represented by strengthened country patriotism). The community aspect will definitely lead to some cultural or geographical driven conflict yet the respect for individual choices elsewhere will balance the conflict within a “values set of rules.”

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All that said. As noted above I believe that while generations turn and attitudes evolve over time that the advent of the internet has truly enabled a new ‘mixing’ of an attitude and should enable new behavior. Interestingly the internet has not just changed behaviors but also attitudes <in that we are now better able to judge others’ behaviors>.

Transparency doesn’t just go in one direction <towards the bad guys … and ‘evil corporations’>.

And while the internet may appear to sharpen <or cocoon> opinions & beliefs it has actually made us more aware of issues and differences <whether we like or dislike the differences is a different issue>. It may have made us more defensive with regard to our own attitudes it has also encouraged us to go on the offensive to showcase our ‘moral cores.’

By the way.

This doesn’t mean a ‘flatter’ world. It means a more aware world. You can no longer just ‘be me’ and be invisible … me is now always visible.

This comes with some repercussions whether it’s protecting or projecting your image or character. The world today with its internet driven transparency forces us all to take a closer look at not only our behavior but also what that behavior ‘begets.’

In the end.

Guilt free accumulation is the future attitude <generating a type of behavior> that needs to be addressed if you are in business and want to innovate products & services … or just want to understand what attitudes which need to be tapped into in order to be successful.

Why should you believe me? I will end with what I started with … “an elevated expression of the inner voice which the different peoples of the Earth have heard in the glimpse of ourselves find ourselves depths of their being, a voice which conveys the vibrant compassion and wisdom of life.”

Listen closely.

Branding people may misuse the information and and others, like me, will caution the depth of this caring & inner voice.

But.

The inner voice of fairness is raising its voice to be heard. A lot of us older folk may try to shut it out, but the younger voices will be heard. And in being heard they will drive the behavior of the future.

Ignore this voice at your own peril.

 

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Written by Bruce