What do we really ‘need’?
Give me pencil and paper and I’ll be entertained for hours, while my mind wanders away, and ideas, images and words fill my page. All I really need are the stories in my head and those of people around me.
Maybe that means I’m a bit crazy but, then again, who isn’t?
Does it also mean I qualify as ‘socially conscious’ because I don’t need lots of ‘stuff’ to keep me happy?
Lately there’s been a lot of interest in the idea of minimalism and its role in sustainability i.e. that basically the best way to conserve resources is simply to consume less.
But while excessive consumption is starting to be seen as ‘not cool’ for the environment, the reality is that we live in a society based on buying and selling.
So it’s no surprise that an alternative way to ‘do good’ is to raise money for a cause by selling products i.e. a socially conscious business.
The paradox for me is: How do I support a socially conscious business if I don’t really need their products? Does buying a product I don’t need do more harm than good, no matter how noble the business motives? Does this create false demand, is this bad economics, and ultimately unsustainable?
What are the wider issues here?
How can we start to understand what we really ‘need’, and the complex impacts of the products we buy? For instance, how do we balance positive social impacts against negative environmental impacts or vice-versa?
How can we find the true stories behind the people in socially conscious businesses so we can see through any misleading marketing claims (e.g. the term ‘greenwashing’ has been coined to refer to businesses that spend more time talking about being green than actually helping the environment).
How can we find a voice that will bring us together for the ‘greater good’ and will make sure there isn’t a loser in some part of the equation?
Below are two examples of socially conscious organisations that immediately come to mind for me.
Thankyou Water – This social enterprise provides clean water to third world countries mainly by selling bottled water in first world countries.
The Story of Stuff – This organisation addresses the negative impacts of over consumption including issues raised about the ‘over use’ of bottled water.
Both organisations are aiming to help the world, however it seems that it is in conflicting ways. This challenges us to think about how best to ‘do good’.
Do you think one way is better than the other?
How do you think we can better support social consciousness? How can we share the stories of success from all those who are in the socially conscious paradigm?
Seth Godin’s post: Narcissistic altruism (altruistic narcissism) inspired this post