What is the definition of a “successful” business? Is a business successful as long as it turns a profit? Do concerns about employees, our community, our environment or our economy factor in to the definition of success?
Traditionally, business was solely focused on the shareholders and owners. Profit was king and all that mattered, and success always equaled profit.
However, we’ve seen the results of a headlong dedication to making money at any cost. We’ve seen massive separation between employers and employees when that relationship is not respected equally on both sides. We’ve seen communities and economies atrophy when their core businesses moves overseas. We’ve seen the results on our rivers, mountains, forests and wildlife when they are not factored into the business equation responsibly. And we’ve seen the effects on our national economy when entire industries move overseas, solely to make more money for shareholders.
It is time for the definition of success to include many more aspects of our community, and Asheville is seated in an ideal spot to create that new definition.
The Living Wage Certification Program that Just Economics facilitates is designed not only to celebrate and reward an employer that provides a living wage to all his staff, but also to provide tools and incentives to create new living wage employers in our community.
But that is not all; the program also encourages consumers to support those employers in our community that share our vision of a just and sustainable economy that works for all in Western North Carolina. It is certainly a piece of this new definition of success.
The Living Wage Employer Certification Program was designed to positively affect a business’ bottom line in many ways, including reducing turnover, which leads to reduced training costs and recruiting costs while increasing employee productivity, morale and overall dedication to the business. Living wage certified employers have found that investing in their employees provides an excellent return; this touches almost every aspect of their business. Employees who are provided a living wage are happier, healthier, less likely to call in sick and more invested in the daily operations. This investment is rarely lost on the customer. This is where we all come into the mix.
The ripple effect of living wages on our community affects us all. When a local retailer provides a living wage to her staff, those employees are more likely to have the means to also spend in our local economy, supporting other local businesses. A well-known, close relative of this concept was the business model of Henry Ford. Ford committed to paying his staff enough for them to buy their own cars, which also impacted his turnover rates and morale, but ultimately allowed his employees to be able to afford his own products.
Likewise, employees that make a living wage can spend their own proceeds locally, increasing local consumer spending. This positively impacts every business in our community and in turn, every member of our community — including you, the reader.
Money talks! Your hard earned dollars are ballots that you can use daily. Every day in our community, more and more conscientious consumers are spending their dollars intentionally, supporting those businesses that share their ideals and philosophies of what our community should look like. Business owners listen when it comes to your buying decisions; consumer demand is a powerful force! By supporting businesses that we align with, we have the ability to change the landscape of our local economy, to decide which businesses flourish and which we’d rather not have here.
We vote every day with our dollars, and by shopping with those businesses that provide a living wage to all their employees, you send a clear message of support. Living wage certified employers deserve to be lifted up, to thrive. Together, we can make this a daily reality right here in WNC.