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Sales Tax as the New Tithe

For the past 3 days, I’ve been teleworking from my hometown of El Paso, Texas. Being around my family — the people who have taught me most of my spiritual and moral values (e.g., treat others as you would want to be treated, be responsible and volunteer as much as you can) —  I am always taught something new. Though we’re very similar in many regards, I have noticed our differences as consumers — back in Austin, I am a fairly frugal millennial with the college coed mentality that I must save when I can (on most days I’ll go for the less-expensive Angel Soft over the Charmin), while my mother is generally motivated by brand allegiance, at least when it comes to home and culinary purchases (she wouldn’t dare buy a generic chicken broth over Campbell’s). Even though we’re both kind of stuck in our ways, however, we agree that something that would get us to change our staunch shopping habits is a company’s corporate and social responsibility.

The growth of global awareness and the exposure of recent corporate scandals are just two reasons that more and more companies are launching corporate responsibility campaigns in which they use better practices and support various charities or reward employees that do. The public’s constant stream of ethics-related buzzwords (“free range,” “humane” and “in-kind” to name a few) also have companies responding by becoming more aware of their ethical responsibilities. This shift has consumers reacting positively.
More than ever, people are trying to support companies that tie their business model to social good. In fact, 70% of surveyed American consumers say that they would pay more for a product if it came “from a company they regard as responsible.” This means that the almighty buck has become an extension of many consumers’ moral and spiritual values — just look at the success of TOMS®.

Several years ago, I had the chance to hear Stephen J. Dubner, the co-author of Freakonomics, speak in Austin and remember him saying that he believes people are innately altruistic. I have to agree.  When emotionally-charged topics arise, whether it be animal cruelty or giving needed items to impoverished children, people are hard-wired to want to help and try to do so by extending funds for goods that help both others and themselves at the same time. Though not everyone acts upon this mentality and many people would never consider shifting the way that they purchase items, altruistic consumers like these have made a big impact in the market, one that I predict will continue to grow.

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