In October 2013 NELP, National Employment Law Project, released a data brief discussing the low wages of fast food workers, Super-Sizing Public Costs. Within this report, NELP pointed out that American taxpayers are paying fast food workers nearly $7 billion every year with various assistance programs while, in some case, the CEOs and shareholders of these companies are earning millions. This report initiated a long and passionate discussion with my DH about Corporate Social Responsibility. That discussion ended with, “That’s the way it is. What can we do about it?”
I have to admit, that question is getting on my nerves. What can we do about it?
In today’s world, we accept circumstances that just feel wrong or we must choose between ‘the lesser evils”. Even though at a gut-level, we feel “it doesn’t have to be like this”, what can we do about it? We have totally forgotten that in order to expect Corporate Social Responsibility we must exercise our Individual Social Responsibility.
This problem goes far beyond corporations and Corporate Social Responsibility. The problem is NOT:
- Class structure in America
- High Inflation
- A broken political system
- Too much violence
- Illegal immigration
- Any other social, political or environmental issue where you feel at a gut level,”It doesn’t have to be this way.”
The problem lies within you, me, and every other person who has allowed, “What can we do about it?” end a discussion.
Simply put, the problem is that we accept forced choices in our lives. We do not feel empowered to say “Enough” or “No.” We, as a society, allow the corporations, politicians, media, etc., to make us feel out of control and “less than”.
We cannot change the world unless we change ourselves.
While our individual actions by themselves won’t change the world, they can help build and/or sustain a collective struggle that can create change. So the solution is simple:
Decide * Advertise * Stand
Decide. What circumstance(s) get you riled? Is it the American class structure, the environment, or our health care system? Maybe it is something local like the trash on your street. Pick one circumstance and one action that you can achieve that will promote change. Pick up trash. Boycott certain corporations. Refuse to buy healthcare under the Affordable Healthcare Act. You DECIDE what action feels right for you.
Advertise. Announce the decision you have made using the tools you have available, free. Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Pinterest, and all the other Social Media tools we use daily. Your connections can help you stay motivated, share your cause with their friends, provide a forum for suggestions, and maybe create the collective needed for change.
This ‘advertising’ creates the ‘ripple effect’. Martin Oetting discusses this subject in depth in his book, “The Ripple Effect”. He argues – with supporting evidence – to use “empowered involvement” – giving others an active say and role in what you are ‘selling’. Oetting is talking about empowered involvement for corporations to sell products. You can use the ripple effect to ‘sell’ an idea.
Stand. Now this is the most difficult part – stand by your decision. Yes, you might feel as though you are the only person who cares. Yes, you might feel as if you, alone, cannot make a difference. Even worse, there is no immediate gratification. But, if you use the ripple effect, you will not stand by yourself forever. You will discover others, through word of mouth and social media, who will stand with you creating the collective struggle needed for change.
Stand long enough and you will see change.
How Does This Look?
Let’s go back to the NELP report I mentioned at the beginning. The report got me riled so I have made a decision to work towards creating a change. These corporations do not need to be subsidized in order to make a profit. But when their employees have to receive public assistance in order to survive, that is what we are doing. Therefore, I am going to boycott the top five corporations on the list. No more McDonald’s®, Pizza Hut®, Taco Bell®, KFC®, Subway®, Burger King® or Wendy’s®.
It is a simple change, but if I am joining a collective force of others who decide not to purchase those fast food products, then these corporations will have no choice but to look at their pay structure and a social change will occur.
What can we do about it?
History books contain countless stories about people who decided to make a difference in their world. Each of these historical people, each Martin Luther King, Jr and Susan B Anthony, had other people standing with him or her, contributing to their effort by exercising Individual Social Responsibility.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) states:
“In the wake of increasing globalization, we have become increasingly conscious not only of what we buy, but also how the goods and services we buy have been produced. Environmentally harmful production, child labor, dangerous working environments and other inhumane conditions are examples of issues being brought into the open. All companies and organizations aiming at long-term profitability and credibility are starting to realize that they must act in accordance with norms of right and wrong.”
By becoming socially responsible individuals, you give voice to what you feel is right and wrong – to your norm. By taking a stand, you demand companies, organizations and governments to become more socially responsible – you promote change.