Thoughts on Consumer Advocacy and Business Accountability: Creating Win-WIn Outcomes

Submitted by Sudhir Kade on Thu, 02/02/2006 - 14:39.

So often economic development focuses on job creation, new venture creation, and the connection of resources to opportunity.  While these are all important drivers of economic growth, we must also consider the impacts of sound ethical consumer and business practices.  On the consumer side, customers of businesses need to understand the terms of business transactions and employ sound money managment techiques to ensure transactions are conducted resource efficiently.  This enables consumers to save more, and in time not only enhance quality of life but  accumulate  savings which eventually have greater economic impact and contribution - allowing the consumer to spend more, generate greater tax revenue for all levels of government, inspire diverse investments or even new business ventures.

On the business side, the same rules follow.  Unethical business practices may generate greater short term revenue but the damage to credibility and integrity can generate costs that far exceed revenue over time.  It seems that more and more businesses today are realizing that it makes soundest business sense to employ a strategy of doing good and doing well - these need not be mutually exclusive behaviors.

So as we start to realize how important ethics can be on both sides of the business fence, it behooves us to raise awareness and understanding for all citizens- especially the many of us who are both merchants and consumers. 

The Cleveland Better Business Bureau can be accessed here, and works to hold local and national busnesses accountable to ethical standards.  Users can file complaints online, view  complaint logs, and see ratings and consumer reports for businesses. They can also access a vast consumer and business resource network and learn about membership.  A local 'anytime' line can be accessed at (216) 241-7678 to obtain reports on companies and charities alike. Consumer and Business alerts are also broadcast.  There  is even an Auto Line which provides consumers with complaints about newer vehicles and direct access to U.S and foreign carmakers.  There is even an arbitration service to BOTH consumers and businesses to offer a means of remediation of business agreements quickly, fairly, and inexpensively.  This can result in mutual compromise and winning economic outcomes for both sides.

 Clearly business owners and charities can augment reputational benefits by holding a high rating with BBB, and regarless accountability and a greater level of information transparency is ensured.

Aside from sound money management - which helps both consumers and businesses, credit building and repair can be a critical component for both sides of the fence as well.. Many consumers or small business owners don't realize they are suffering needlessly from a poor credit score and there are ways to improve one's credit profile.  Contrary to popular opinion, credit repair companies which charge customers for their legal services are not performing exclusive tasks but rather typically work to contest negative items- this can be accomplished just as effectively, and thus more affordably, through individual effort.  If there is legitimate reason to contest certain items one can obtain removals that can raise scores.  A variety of guides and manuals are available to consumers to guide them through the monitoring and enhancement process.  A free annual credit report can be obtained at by clickiing here.  Increasing the creditworthiness of all citizens, of course, makes sound economic sense, because it raises spending power,  lowers default risk, and ensures revenue maximization.

 In summary, there are many ways consumers can and should ensure the integrity and crediblity of merchants they do business with, across all business sectors.  Likewise business can only benefit themselves by ensuring sound business practices are followed and maintained.  This can be done more expensively through wieldy audit departments or less expensively by ensuring the permeation of sound business ethics and moral values throughout the organization - creating a culture of ethical behavior and sound corporate citizenship that becomes a point of pride and a magnet for customers.  More on this in a subsequent blog post.  For now , the message is clear - positive economic outcomes for the region can be augmented by all citizens employing sound money managment, holding businesses accountable, and ensuring creditworthiness.

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