This is my first blogpost from a driving train on my new UMTS/WiFi-enabled Acer Aspire 5652AWLMi Laptop (UMTS is a mobile wireless broadband standard... which makes my daily commute survivable ;-) As promised this means more short "quick posts" on topics that intrigue me.
This morning an newspaper headline got me to think on how businesses will have to increasingly integrate volontary social standards into their business design. The short headline I came across was saying that the largest Swiss retailer Migros is urging its toy suppliers to comply with the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI). On its website the Bruxelles-based initiative describes itself as:
... the broadest common retail, industry and importers platform in Europe for monitoring and improving working conditions in all supplier countries and for all consumer goods. In this context, BSCI is proud to present its first Annual Report 2005, which is intended for all those for whom corporate social responsability matters and who believe that the business approach is the efficient and practical way to implement successfully social standards.
Migros' move and insistence towards its suppliers is an interesting sign indicating that the company is sensible to its customers' social values. This is important since the company has an overall turn-over of 20 Billion Swiss Francs. Yet, it's still a weak signal for the overall industry because Migros' roots are traditionally interwoven with responsible social behavior. In addition the toy sector is a natural candidate for such an initiative because it involves kids (that represent the future generation...)
However, this drive towards volontary socially responsible behavior of companies clearly indicates that today's consumers are better informed and are gaining more and more power over how companies can behave in public. This has been a natural consequence of the Internet and available information. The recent rise of blogs and so-called grassroots journalism has given this development another push.
What does this all mean for companies and their business design? I think it could translate into consumer brands that will have to link up with social responsibility brands and labels. Many Swiss companies have actually signed up to the intiative because the Swiss customers pay a lot of attention to such norms. Another impact could be the way companies build relationships with their customers. Corporations will have to become more transparent and give their customers access to such sensible information as how they produce in supplier countries around the world, etc. I believe that those that comply will be rewarded with a stronger brand image and those that don't will increasinly come under attack by consumer groups.