Sebastian Mallaby has an article, "A New Brand of Power," in today's Washington Post. In it he talks about how a company's "brand" may well be worth more than it's bricks and mortar. He goes on to postulate that corporations are now tackling problems that government fears to tackle.
He points out some examples, including Starbucks providing health benefits to part time employees and Walmart trying to reduce their energy consumption and become a greener company.
It may well be that we have entered a new age. Government seems to be uninterested in regulating corporations on a number of levels so the only pressure for corporations to change is when their brand is in danger.
What an interesting twist, governments have given away so much power, corporations are assuming the mantel of power and responsibility.
Unfortunately a lot of harm can take place because compliance is uneven, and corporations are really accountable to no one other than their stockholders. While Apple Computer may make the super cool iPods, just because they're making cool stuff doesn't mean they'll be doing other things that we as consumers might want them to do. I recently wrote a post on my other blog, Applepeels, which details some of the corporate management style that I saw at Apple. When it comes to measuring organizations for cronyism, my money would be Apple if we put them against FEMA. I don't trust these guys to make decisions beyond the product they ship.
There's much potential for good among corporations, but I don't think we should be putting our faith in corporate organizations that can and do as they please with little or no real accountability to us.
I hope our government improves from it recent dismal performance. It takes more than a few giant companies worrying about their brands to fix the problems that we face. We have a history of government that can rise to the challenge. We will get past this bunch of incompetents.
I would also worry that with the number of brands shrinking we might have less choice in the world, but I thing the smaller and more agile world of small business is likely the place where most of our innovation will come from in the future. That's a good thing, since small business is much more responsive to the communities where they are located.
Beyond on this political power shift, there are other serious things to worry about. No only is our educational system not up to snuff, but we have also lost the Bratwurst eating record. This is a sad day in Wisconsin. You can check out the article, "Japanese man eats record 58 brats in Wisconsin contest," in SJ Mercury News.