From Petitions to Buycotting: The Value of Transparency

featured-brave-new-worldCan you imagine living in a world where an 18 year old boy’s complaints lead to a meeting with senior executives of a global clothing retailer just weeks later? Or one where a woman’s initiative eradicates an ancient caste system in an Indian town? Well, imagine it — because we do. We live in a time where one single person has the ability to effect change on a massive scale. The first story refers to a young man, Benjamin O’Keefe, who felt that he needed to do something about the teen clothing outfit Abercrombie & Fitch refusing to carry larger sizes in its stores, as well as to the company’s statement that the reason is because A&F markets only to the “cool” and “beautiful” kids (implying that those in larger sizes are neither). He posted a petition on and managed to garner 75,000 signatures, leading to an invitation to meet with executives to provide guidance and advice on how they should make positive changes.

If you visit, you will see dozens of these types of stories, with some having implications that are historical. I share this story because beyond just, there are many more examples of how individuals are able to rally the media, or just other individuals, to a cause. What about the concept of buycotting? There is actually an app that allows a person to scan a product and it will inform them if buying that product is putting money into the pocket of a cause they believe in… giving them instant power to support by buying — or alternatively, not to buy.

As you probably know me well by now, you’re wondering how I’m going to bring this home now for the AV professionals. I will say this: It is highly unlikely anyone has to worry about a 75,000 person petition being brought against an AV programmer. However, there is the issue of transparency. If there is a claimed commitment to sustainability by any company, it is far too easy for a client, industry member, or even competitor, to call them out on those statements. You cannot feel safe just being excited about green and telling the world. You must substantiate the claims.

Since I’ve spent the last two years beating you to death about sustainability reporting, I have a new thought to share. One of the best ways that I think we as an industry can add substance to our environmental commitments is through a Life Cycle Assessment. Most AV professionals are not strangers to a Life Cycle Analysis when it comes to projects and providing data on replacement for the technology we sell and service, but the Life Cycle Assessment is a clear reporting on the environmental impact of these products. If you stop to think about it, most of our business is centered around things. Electronic things. If we can clearly state what the lifetime impact of the things we sell really are, then we are one step closer to transparency. And although it probably wouldn’t attract thousands of signatures, this transparency might ultimately mean we will not end up on someone’s procurement black list.

Next month I’ll provide an overview and resources for the Life Cycle Assessment, or LCA.