In response to Mark’s comment on my last entry on biodegradable diapers, I thought the issue deserves a longer entry to discuss the issue of corporate ethics (or lack thereof).
The government site I included in that entry did have links to a couple of companies that make biodegradable materials for diapers. I think the materials are just too expensive to manufacture for mass consumers right now. But then again, the economics of scale… Hello, chicken and the egg…
As for longer lasting and better quality diapers (or products in general), what the market really needs is competition to keep it healthy and technologies advancing. When there are only two or three really big players cornering the market, that’s when innovation will slow to a halt. Case in point — Wintel PC industry. Nobody is innovating. The market is full of cloners with Dell being the top dog. To give the diaper manufacturers where credit’s due though, Proctor & Gamble, Kimerly-Clark and others have introduced better and longer lasting diapers. The diapers today weight less and absorb a lot more than diapers from 10 years ago.
Since I am on the subject of diapers, I might as well mention our latest discoveries… We found that the generic supermarket brands don’t absorb quite as well as the name brands. Bryan now sleeps through the night when he’s wearing Pampers during the night. But he will demand for a diaper change in the middle of night if he sleeps with the generic stuff from Safeway. Other than that, the generic stuff is more than sufficient for day time use.
Coming back to the economics and ethics of companies, consumers have a lot more power than they realize. The manufacturers sure as hell aren’t going to invest in the R&D if there’s no demand for it. Corporations exist to maximize profit for their investors with little to no concern to anything else, including ethics and the environment.
Take another example, everything in the United States seems to be disposable. In some cases, that’s just good hygiene. But I have a hunch that in most cases, it’s good business. Something that needs to be replaced brings ever flowing revenues to the manufacturer. Sure, more innovative products can also drive sales, but why investing in the research for innovative products when a product can secure people’s spending by making them coming back for the same thing over and over? The shaving blades is a good example. But in all seriousness, I am not sure if the blades are actually so dull that they need to be replaced every six months. Maybe it’s the psychology that every time you cut yourself, you think it’s the fault of dull blades?
As a consumer, when I am making purchasing decisions, I try to bear in mind the issues above. I know that every time I reach for my credit card/cash in my wallet, I am excercising the power of choice with which company I want for them to profit off of me. I am sure Brian would agree with me… He’s the one started all this “consumer power” stuff in my head… Hah!
Just for the record, I say no to the following products as much as possible:
Microsoft (software division; way too many bugs)
Dell (leeching off of others’ innovations)
Disney (except when it comes to Pixar movies)
Sony (their electronics break way too frequently)
Huggies (leaky diapers for boys)