Those who want to work for social change in the world are often routed toward non-profits or volunteer organizations, which are run with set goals for change in mind. Devoting your life to a good cause is one of the most admirable things you can do, but even those of us who take jobs in the for-profit world have ample opportunity to positively influence the world around us.
One of the most recent examples of this is the new ad campaign of everyone’s favorite jeweler, Tiffany & Co. Tiffany’s new engagement ring advertisement, which features a gay couple, made the company the latest major retailer using its advertisements to make a progressive social statement. Though many fashion brands (like Banana Republic, JCPenny, etc.) have already included gay couples in campaigns, this marks a first in the world of jewelry.
Popular culture is both influenced and is an influencer of media. Brands with a wide reach obviously must gauge the attitudes of their audience to ensure their marketing will resonate, but they also have the power to influence how the public thinks. The media–advertising included–has a huge impact on social norms. We constantly receive clues from advertising and mass media about what things we should consider “normal” in our day-to-day life. Thus, Tiffany and others’ socially progressive campaigns represent more than just a calculated decision to tap into new markets and benefit from press coverage. These campaigns will help redefine the public consciousness, bringing change in a subtle way through the construction of new cultural trends.
Business will never replace the organizations who make it their mission to fight for change. However, in many cases, well known brands have the ability to create change in unique ways given their status as trend-setters and their access to broad audiences. Change can—and must—come from multiple sources. Everyone must simply do their part.
So if you want to do good and go into business, you don’t have to compromise. Who knows? Your career path might just give you the power to change the world.