Monday, November 12, 2007

Companies of Conscience & Kids

I was, in fact, driving my shopping cart down the middle of the aisle like a maniac. Time is money. And with three kids who love to “help,” experience dictates that when it comes to grocery shopping, if I don’t hurry it up, I’ll have a cart full of junk I don’t need.

Apologizing to the woman on aisle 8 who is witness to my frenzied tactic, I mobilize my team. “We’re looking for household favorites, household basics and household necessities,” I remind them as I stoop down to pick up a case of my husband’s favorite cola.

“You know, Mama,” my son says, as I shove the box under the cart. “we really should be buying that soda instead” , “because it’s made by a good company.”

I don’t just pause, I stop. (A miracle in of itself). “What do you mean,” I ask, “GOOD company?”

“Well,” he says with his most serious face, “they do stuff for people. They even give their money to poor kids. They worry about the earth, and they… I dunno… they … they’re good. That’s important right?” I work overtime to control the muscles in my face that are trying to alter the shape of my mouth into an oversized grin.

I can’t believe it’s happened. My son has graduated from “selfish consumer” to “selfless consumer” with a green halo over his head He is now a statistic. Part of the roughly 70% of Americans (according to a recent study by the Natural Marketing Institute), who want to purchase from a specific company because of their strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reputation.

“It’s very important,” I confirm.

Blind to the significance of this moment, his 4-year old sibling gleefully plucks products with ultra colorful logos off the shelves and piles them into our cart. I half wonder if any of these cherry-picked products come from a company of conscience, but my focus remains on my son. “Where’d you come up with the good company stuff?” I follow-up.

My son shrugs his shoulders, “Some kids were talking about it at school.”

First graders are now discussing aspects of CSR. Companies with a perceived conscience are making a difference to a demographic they find the most challenging to reach. CSR is clearly an investment that can lead to many long-term benefits, especially when marketed to kids (who make up a +$150-billion a year spending power – and doubling that number when factoring in their influence on mom & dad).

That evening, after I kissed my toothless son goodnight, I looked up the published CSR reports from both soda companies.

With their world-wide recognized brands, these two sizeable companies promote a positive image of their products and activities. Both firms have meaningful CSR programs with significant investments in the communities they serve. Both are capable of staying attuned to social issues relevant to their business – but it appears that one, over the other, has figured out how to communicate their efforts in a way elementary school kids can understand.

That is a diamond in the rough. The implications are life-long.

As a parent, I still have a long journey ahead of me to help my children enjoy greater discretion on consumption decisions. While I take great pride in the fact that my son -- at the tender age of 6 & ¾’s – feels that he should teach me (age deleted) about conscious consumerism, I also want to be sure he understands the difference between effective marketing and effective outcome.

Is it important to be a company of conscience? You bet your bottom dollar -- and KooDooZ™ to those who are out there, making a difference.

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