Describing himself as 'a branding and advertising professional' the author explains his initial point of view, and reinforces it with 'contributory consumption, a comprehensive system of mindful consumerism'. Capitalism and consumerism can do a great deal of good. But encouraging owners of phones to upgrade them every few months won't be part of that good. Buying up a nation's water supply so as to make and sell sugary drinks or water in plastic bottles won't be part of it. Moving your manufacturing base to ever cheaper, ever more polluting countries won't be part of it. The author tells us of a mindshift after the 2008 crash, when he saw people getting poorer and losing jobs. He realised that the system was flawed, serving the rich at the expense of the rest. While capitalism should share out increasing prosperity - how else can consumers buy goods? - instead the USA's wealth was being hoarded by a tiny fraction of the population. He suggests social media can help consumers report on bad companies and praise good ones.
Industry experts tell us that social media firms are all about two things - advertising, and harvesting users' details to sell to advertisers. In this way they are more efficient than TV or newspapers, which don't gain back details about their users. So this author's exhorting readers to use more social media, not less, still works out as serving those media and a few wealthy owners, not to mention the makers of the computers and phones used. He doesn't go into privacy issues.
Another book I read recently - 'Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online' by Bailey Poland - told us that some online media sites are horrendously abusive places for women and people of colour or alternative gender. Women were advised to use a man's name when joining a site. If females didn't get outright abuse, they were more likely to have their comments jeered at, ignored or dismissed. This book was largely covering USA.
Quoted thinkers in 'We First' include Jared Diamond, Thomas Friedman, Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton. We are asked questions like, how much is enough to pay a CEO in proportion to what his (not her or their) lowest paid workers get? How many people can the world support? Why should nations like the Maldives pay the penalty for rising sea levels caused by other countries? Younger people, coming of age with phones and tablets, think differently and prefer free or shared to high profit. Experiments show that informed consumers preferred ethical purchases even with a higher price. Cause Related Marketing - support our cause with each purchase - has become popular. But the author tells us that corporations are not doing enough, fast enough. And they are still taking the money from each consumer, not from the CEO's wages or shareholders' profits. When he's just told us that Americans are indebted to 130% of their annual income. The author mentions growing Green Tech companies, and suggests Andrew Savitz's book, 'The Triple Bottom Line', which asks government and private sectors to value people, planet and profit.
The author repeats an astonishing piece of advice. He says in economist Dambisa Moyo's book 'Dead Aid', we are told that rich countries transferring over a trillion dollars in aid to Africa has led only to corruption and greed, causing greater poverty. Instead, the African nations should take to the bond and investment markets. Since I just read yesterday in 'The Black Box Society' by law professor Frank Pasquale that California's Orange County went bankrupt after its treasurer gambled and lost over a billion dollars in derivatives, what chance would Africans have of doing anything but transferring public assets to private, overseas hands?
And there are case studies, like Unilever which aims to have all its packaging come from sustainable recyclable materials, but gets only 15% of its tea and palm fats from sustainable sources. Nestle was embarrassed by Greenpeace over palm oil from deforestation, and the data was spread around social media and petitions. So public pressure - not buying plus protesting - can make a difference. The Body Shop and other firms are ethical from the start. The author looks at Haiti, telling us that there were already 10,000 NGOs - that would mean organisations - working there when the earthquake struck. He doesn't mention the cholera which followed, introduced by Nepalese UN troops.
With suggestions for more transparency, statements like "brands should use social media to inform consumers of how they have embedded purpose into their core," and engaging employees, the author seems sincere in his wishes. Public relations would improve for the brands large and small. He even spells out six degrees of interaction, from friends tweeting each other to people reading and relaying information to people in homes (micropolitics), to people following the CEO's tweets about corporate social responsibility activity. Can purchases in game environments be tapped for donations? Well, why not? There are even games we're told, reflecting the challenges of a third world farmer (that's what it's called) or a world without oil. The WWF explains that we all have to work together to save the world in which we live. We're told they organised roundtable meetings of company bosses and got them to agree on codes for sustainable fish farming.
Despite the frequent lists and bullet points, I didn't find the book wonderfully presented. I think the author makes too much of trying to appeal to industry people who might read the book, without getting straight into the tactics that consumer or conscience groups can use, which are left to the very end. This is probably because he is now an industry advisory speaker. I would have liked more quotes from Greenpeace and fewer from business moguls. I suggest reading the book in conjunction with 'Why it's Kicking Off Everywhere' by journalist Paul Mason for some background on global protests organised by smartphones and social media, and corporate or national delinquency. I saw no mention in 'We First' of trolls, abuse of women or diverse persons, which tend to dissuade decent people from using social media or some platforms. The cynical might say that as a white male, the author has not encountered or has dismissed these issues. I don't know.
Notes in tiny print cover pages 236 - 244. I counted seventeen names which I could be sure were female. The index is tiny print, pages 245 - 250 and I counted nineteen names I could be sure were female, twenty if you include Hurricane Katrina.