Mobs for Good

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by: John Winsor

The consumer gods have chosen to smile upon a select few in San Francisco. That, or Carrotmob has infiltrated another company.

The SF based and socially-responsible organization, Carrotmob, is trying to make companies more environmentally friendly. Rather than apply negative pressure – threaten to boycott or sign a petition – Carrotmob offers a “juicy carrot,” a token of sorts that could potentially yield high profits for the companies involved.

As creator Brent Schulkin says in his blog:

We will create a large network of consumers. We will form partnerships with other larger advocacy groups to use their research and infrastructure. Together we will identify opportunities for improving corporate behavior. For example, let’s say there’s an environmentally harmful chemical in common brands of soap. We would approach several competing soap companies. We will explain the problem, and see which of them is willing to eliminate the harmful chemical. They will bid for our support. Each company will raise the bar with how much good they are willing to do. Perhaps Company X pledges to remove the chemical. Then Company Y pledges to remove the chemical and reduce factory emissions 20%. And so on. The bigger our network, the further they will be willing to go. We accept the best offer. Company Y agrees to take the steps that we want, and then we make it worth their while with a carrot: Everyone in the network buys millions of dollars worth of their soap, and in the process Company Y gains a wealth of reputation capital as well. The most responsible business decision also gets the most profit. Delicious!

Putting theory into practive, Schulkin approached roughly two-dozen shops and asked if they were willing to dedicate a small portion of sales to an energy-saving initiative. K&D Market won Carrotmob’s business, pledging 22% of their profits. In return, Schultz utilized a array of social networks – MySpace, Facebook, Carrotmob blog, and a number of online videos – and was able to get 300 people to “mob” the Market on a predetermined day. The store pulled in an estimated $10,000, four times as much as a typical day.

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