Some time ago, I met Adrien Kouadion, a cocoa farmer living in Ivory Coast. He is quite a delightful person, a passionate football player who wanted to become a farmer like his father. It was love at first sight when he met his wife; he constantly delights his community through his positive attitude and enjoys time with his family. Via YouTube, you and thousands of others have a chance to meet Adrien and let his sparkling good humour and contagious smile cheer you up.
Through centuries and cultures, tales have been an essential way of transmitting knowledge and an important learning device. Tales have been used for warning, guidance, protection and development. Tales go on and are transmitted from one generation to the next, and they transform just as appropriate at a given time. Tales also connect us to the society and culture. Tales help us get to know ourselves and our environment better. Tales often have a touch of something magical.
Responsibility is and will increasingly be tales. Through tales, responsibility and companies’ responsible actions become concrete. Tales add credibility. We are painfully aware that policies and great speeches about responsibility were unable to prevent the Rana Plaza accident or the modern slavery created by low wages and excessively long working hours. Consumers have awoken to the discrepancy between words and actions and have started to ask why big companies do not know where their products come from, who makes them and what the reality looks like along the products’ path. Declarations, speeches and hundreds of responsibility labels that people cannot really tell apart are not enough anymore. We need true tales from the real world.
A tale adds meat on the bones of a product’s long journey. It tells consumers what indirect benefits they can bring about by buying a certain product. A tale puts a face on a product and also acts as a small guarantee of responsibility. Tales also present an excellent opportunity to enhance brands and do brand marketing. In the near future, stores may put up small interactive screens or signs with tales from the journey of responsibly produced products.
I want to be part of a tale, of something bigger than myself. I am happy to buy chocolate made of Adrien’s cocoa; lamps from Jukka’s factory where people with disabilities are encouraged to work; meat from Kalle, whose organic farm our family visits to see young calves; and apple sauce direct from Grandma. I could fit in many more stories in my life; I hope stores can fit them in, too. So, I wish for a store full of tales! On a small scale, it is already realised in the small shops of rural areas, but the challenge is to incorporate tales in a global delivery chain. I encourage the trading sector to take action and satisfy customers’ hunger for stories!
The writer Minna-Maari Harmaala is Principal Lecturer of Corporate Responsibility at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences.