What’s being demanded by the empowered buyer?

The research company GlobeScan annually surveys a thousand top thought leaders, as well as the general public, in a majority of countries around the world on some really pertinent issues. At the Sustainable Brand Conference in 2007, Rob Kerr, Executive VP of GlobeScan, discussed recent key findings. That research showed how rapidly the consumer’s sense of empowerment is increasing. Does the consumer believe they possess the power to influence a company’s behavior? Over the last few years there is strong and steady growth in mainstream activism in most countries.

It’s no surprise there is now a strong belief that a company should be rewarded for being socially and environmentally responsible, but there is an even stronger sense that a company should be punished for harming social and environmental health. In North America, 46% of leaders say they would reward a company for good behavior while 55% say they would punish a company for behavior that may damage social or environmental health. Now, that’s a sense of empowerment.

These statistics indicate there are a growing number of individuals around the world who feel they can apply pressure that will force companies to comply with their desires. And, of course, they are right. Companies desperately need those who will purchase their products or services. There is no business without someone to do business with.

It is interesting that the sixties helped us distrust authority, but it took until now sometime after the turn of the century—to really understand that the buyer, not the seller, has the power.