Originally posted on May 24, 2012. 100-million dollar investment in Pinterest, the social networking picture sharing site, marks the latest exuberant valuation of a company yet to realize a profit. Rakuten, the investor, might be seen as Japan’s version of Amazon, and they already have enough industry clout both at home and in the U.S. market to make their 1.5-billion dollar assessment of Pinterest less of a presumption, and more of a reality.
This is the tech industry. But with social media, and Rakuten in particular (who also own a portion of Buy.com), it’s also about selling stuff. Reaching more people and selling more products with the ease of the internet is a combination that yields optimism among investors. While we see value in it, we don’t share that same exuberant optimism for social media, a sector economists persistently say they don’t really understand.
If our society were in an economically and environmentally stable condition, there wouldn’t be any cause to take umbrage with so much cash being pumped into Pinterest.
But we have problems.
How do we clean up our planet and make our lives healthier with so much investment fueling conventional consumer practices? Are we being diverted from what’s truly important, seduced by the next shiny new darling of the tech industry? True, there’s nothing inherently deleterious about social media, or its impact on e-commerce. But when we speak of corporate responsibility beyond the shareholder, 100-million dollar investment in a picture sharing site doesn’t appear to take this criterion into account.
Where we’d like to be ten years from now is in a position to lower the cost of sustainable products so they become a significant percentage of mainstream retail offerings. The first barrier we need to fell is today’s initial cost of better products.
Our solution is to target early adopters in the United States marketplace—the same group who propelled Whole Foods to billion-dollar earnings, who are ready to make the same kind of lifestyle changes in their homes as they made in their diets.
The lasting effect will come from existing retail supply chains rapidly transitioning their mode of operation to use better production practices, more recycled materials, fewer natural resources, and fewer toxic chemicals.
WorkingWonders leads by example and gives today’s consumers a better option that immediately fills a huge void in our retail marketplace for healthier, sustainable products. This in turn forces changes to the marketplace, benefiting Americans who may not be able to stomach the cost of sustainable products now, but will have access to them once the marketplace has been kicked in the pants and the landscape changes.
We don’t start this process until we fund WorkingWonders. Otherwise, conventional channels for retail will remain as they are, and Americans will be stuck with lethargic, incremental changes in their weekend shopping routines. Is this not enticing—the thought of championing an effective movement for a better world?
Then consider starting this process costs a fraction of the Pinterest investment, and that unlike the optimism that surrounds the tech industry and social media, WorkingWonders actually brings in revenue now, and does so in spite of the limited resources that keep us afloat. We’re ready to make some waves—big waves—and we have the plan to realize our mission. What we need is a champion partner to share our vision and see the reason in our enterprise.