Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people.
Voting with your wallet
What did you vote for today?
What did you vote for today?
Australia is a lucky country. We are blessed with one of the highest standards of living in the world, great beaches and interestingly, compulsory voting. In fact, in the recent local government election I forgot to vote. I know that is bad and so did the government, for a few weeks later I received a letter warning me that I would be fined if I did not have a good excuse for not fulfilling my democratic responsibility to be involved in shaping the society in which I live. Wow, I think that is pretty cool.
My chance to vote on which type of society I want only comes around every few years, and as powerful as government is, I think there is an even more powerful tool most of us ignore, which calls on us to vote virtually every single day. Every time I pull out my wallet and pay for something, I am making a choice about the world I want to live in. I am voting. I can vote for chickens to live in cages or roam free, vote for superstores or local stores, vote for clean or polluting energy.
If you think your vote is too small to count, I have two thoughts to help change your mind: Firstly, the impact of your purchase is much more powerful than you think, even on seemingly small items. For many smaller businesses who sell through supermarkets, the difference between selling one item a week per store versus two items a week could mean the difference between being removed from the store and making a profit. Even in the largest retailer in Australia, Woolworths (which has approximately 800 stores) the balance of power can be decided by a mere 800 people each week. Imagine a political leader being voted in or out on that margin. The campaigners would be crying out from the rooftops, “Each vote counts!” and they would be right. Don’t underestimate your purchasing power.
Secondly, most of us have a much larger dollar amount to vote with than we think. Lets focus on your superannuation (pension fund, for those not from Australia) for just a moment, because this is so often forgotten. Some quick maths: Although there are conflicting statistics, a good estimate of the average superannuation amount in Australia is 50,000 dollars. If 10,000 people (that’s about a third of the people who will read this article) change their superannuation fund to an ethical fund, we would be redirecting approximately 500 million dollars towards better choices. Now that is some serious voting power.
Of course sometimes, just like in government, there are no good options on the shelves. In that case we must look to those companies and entrepreneurs who are innovating and encourage them to create the option we’re looking for—like a family sized fully electric car (come on carmakers, give me something please!). If you have an idea for a better product, share that idea, or better yet, start your own company.
From where we buy bread to where we invest our superannuation, we are shaping our society. The companies that offer us those choices respond to the market just like the political parties respond to the polls. Considering there are companies that have an annual revenue larger that the Australian government’s, let’s not be blind to the power of the market to effect real change. Our job as conscious consumers is to support those companies that are working to create a good society. What did you vote for today?