HCDE 534 — Reading Journal Week 5: Customers and Social Impact
The readings this week discussed how businesses respond and adapt to customer needs and consider social issues. Three of the articles were letters from Larry Fink to CEOs and shareholders, written between 2018–2021. I did not know who Larry Fink was, so I did some searching and found out he is the chairperson and CEO of the biggest money-management firm in the world. I read more and realized that I had heard about his work before, through conversations with my partner about his climate change announcement: calling on big companies to shift their policies and account for it. Reading the words of Larry Fink made me feel more optimistic about the future and our ability as a species to move in a better direction. Having someone of such great power urge others to be proactive about addressing climate change is reassuring, as there have been increasing calls for this need that have not been answered.
I was intrigued by the point Fink made about how the failure of governments has led people to turn to the private sector, and how customers are increasingly expecting companies to serve social purposes. I think this also speaks to the ability for increased transparency and awareness around businesses and their practices brought about by the internet and social media. There is an increasing ability for people to become informed about who they are doing business with, and this plays into how money will be spent and what businesses need to take into account to be successful. [These thoughts were confirmed as I continued through the readings for this week, which addressed exactly these issues].
There were several mentions of how Millennials have driven much of this change, as they are more likely to research companies, are tech savvy and able to find answers to their questions, conduct discourse over social media, and seem to be skeptical of taking a company at its word. As a Millennial myself, I tend to agree with these assertions, and am excited to see how things will change over the next few years..
Learning about ESG (environmental, social, governance) issues, the recent expansion of the definition of ESG, and the future incorporation of ESG values to determine a company’s worth also made me feel optimistic about the future. It seems as though there is finally some accountability that is pushing change in business practices, and it feels like we are in the middle of a big shift in business practices. I am curious how the U.S. government will play into this shift, particularly with the recent change in administration. It seems as though the U.S. is behind many other countries in progressive regulations and a lot of work will need to be done to move policies forward.
Finally, reading about the need to incorporate inclusive design early in the design process “as a way to proactively save time and resources” was an interesting take on the need for inclusive design that I had not come across before. As was the indication of a successful inclusive design being something that is “both a functional and emotional fit.” This presents both a way of communicating the need for inclusive design for business purposes as well as a way to possibly measure effectiveness.
I wanted to further explore the impact of Millennials on business practices, and found this article: Why Millennials Will Be This Decade’s Corporate Watchdogs by Gil Kazimirov on Medium. Kazimirov points to the 2010s as the period when these changes started to take place, and predicts that the 2020s will fully transform into a new period of materialism as the Millennial generation steps into leadership positions in corporate and political society. It also points to the trend towards increased accountability for social and environmental issues (ESG in other words) coming from other generations as well. Although many of the same points are brought up in this article as were in the readings for this week, it presented more examples of how this is manifesting, and also touched on the shift away from governments leading this charge and towards other entities. This may open up a new marketplace for ventures that provide easy access to the supply chain and other ESG issues of companies so that consumers can have choices. This makes me think of a marketplace where consumers can search by price, company ESG rating, and a variety of other things when deciding to make a purchase.
I also found another article I wanted to share: 6 Tips To Improve ESG Impact For Tech Startups. This outlines several steps that startups can take to improve ESG impact by using alternative suppliers and other means. Although it is not all-encompassing, I found it interesting and useful to read through, as it presents very real steps that businesses and ventures can take (and a ton of resources to use or research further). Tackling ESG issues can feel daunting as a single task, but breaking it down into smaller easy-to-implement chunks seems to be a good place to start. I am interested in incorporating some of these ideas into our project this quarter. Although this article is France-centric, much of it can still be applied and utilized in other countries.