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On consumers asking so many questions

News from the front desk issue 435: According to The Australian, the reliable source of anti climate vitriol that it is, a full 18 people have now been dumped by their political parties for bad behaviour ranging from indiscretion to verbal thuggery: nine Liberal, four Labor, two Independents, one National, one Green and one One Nation.

Of course, The Oz delighted in the fact that one of those outed then ousted was a Green and proceeded to hammer ABC’s Leigh Sales for allegedly going soft on Greens leader Richard Di Natale.

In the era of online media though and in the aftermath of the viral #MeToo movement the idea of outing people is a sport that anyone can play.

It starts with looking for sexist or hateful behaviour but then, some people realise delightedly, it can move in absolutely any direction.

In the US these days whole swathes of the country are split along party political lines, like a thick brush of dense colour, without shading or nuance. Things are so polarised we hear that it’s more traumatic for a family member to marry outside their family politics than their racial group. And that – with apologies to all progressive Americans – is saying something.

Now take that rising sense of tribalism and mix it up with the kind of viral power the #MeToo movement unleashed.

In the regular run of things we usually get to express our political leanings every three or four years, with maybe an intermittent tilt at local council election times.

But what if you could express those rusted on inclinations each and every time you put your hands in your pocket?

Imagine you can choose whether to buy Apple or Microsoft based on the political preferences and political donations of those companies. Coles or Woolies? Virgin or Qantas? Or, heaven forbid, Coke or Pepsi?

An app in the US does just that.

Progressive Shopper will tell shoppers which brand to place their hard won cash with: Macy’s: “Highly recommended.” Amazon: “Better options are available.” Home Depot: “Please shop elsewhere,”

The Washington Post reports the pressure on companies is growing.

The app arrives as a slew of companies have come under pressure to either distance themselves from charged political issues or take a stand.

In November, Walmart, Boston Scientific and Union Pacific all asked for returns on campaign donations to Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi. On a campaign stop, Hyde-Smith had said that if a local rancher standing next to her “invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Over the past year, Greyhound was pulled into debates over the White House’s immigration policy as Border Patrol agents continued to search its buses. And after 17 people were killed at a Parkland, Florida, high school, a slew of companies cut ties with the National Rifle Association or changed their policies on gun sales.

“The site doesn’t hide its liberal tilt – the company’s logo is a jumping donkey with a shopping bag in its mouth.”

This trend to out people and companies is another side of the natural human drive to seek like-minded others.

Who do you want to hang out with?

In real estate this is an old story – location is as much about the physical attributes of the place, home or office, as it is about the demographics of those you’re likely to bump into while inhabiting it.

But like the app and social media outing trend, this desire to network is becoming more pronounced and the choice of office is becoming more about the service of what you’re buying into by way of community or network as anything else.

Our audience at Happy Healthy Offices on Wednesday this coming week will be hearing quite a bit about the social/network side of offices.

According to panellists Liam Timms from Lendlease and Paul Edwards from Mirvac their offer these days is not so much about the physical space, though this has to be as good as it gets – especially on the quality of the indoor air – but more of an access to a service, or a network as Edwards puts it.

Timms who is fund manager International Towers at Barangaroo in Sydney and back for a second year at HHO (See his contribution in our ebook last year) admits there’s an element of selectiveness in creating a tenant mix for offices these days.

You want like-minded people around you. If you’re the boss you will look for spaces that allow greater synergies and networking but also the “happy healthy” benefits that come from acknowledging our social appetite to hang out with people who support our values and preferred habits. Such as active exercise – with good facilities. Or healthy food – through a critical mass of quality healthy food instead of junk.

For blue blood corporates in the past the inclination to seek the like-minded probably started and stopped with the blue blood bit. Premium was the word. But today there is a growing desire for profile as an ethical, sustainable corporate, or one that’s at least on the journey to such a thing.

That’s hard for a company focused on profit first and foremost and using last century ethics and principles, not so strange for a new world company that wants to attract talented Millennials and their ilk.

And if you’ve spent a lot of money to move into a place like Barangaroo, for instance, you probably don’t want to see the world’s biggest polluter move in next door (no matter how “blue” or “premium” they are).

Goodness, what if the protesters start showing up every morning?

Location-signalling your superior values may not be enough.

The apps we’ve already seen, such as Progressive Shopper, plus the growing sophistication of data aggregation blended with the growing passion of activist app creators means corporates are on notice to get their house in order – in all meanings of that metaphor.

The technology to do almost anything.

There are flying taxis through Uber Elevate – this beast’s new personal flying taxis designed to avoid traffic jams for fragile execs. There’s quantum computing getting close. There are people using residual DNA to bring a dinosaur back to life (in Japan, but not sure why).

With all this technology, surely we can manage to invent a bar code with detailed inventory to reveal what a company’s ethical/environmental/diversity/inclusivity/political DNA is.

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