What brands must encourage: giving for reuse, and 4Good.

4G4Good is the name of a new initiative by StarHub Mobile of Singapore. Started a few days ago, this initiative lets Starhub’s postpaid customers donate their unused talktime, SMS and data – to charity. What a brilliant idea, Sirji!

Based on how many pledges to donate they get, StarHub is then going to give free usage of those unused resources to hundreds of needy beneficiaries who work for charity organisations they’ve identified.

It’s such a simple idea that I wonder why we can’t extend it across a wide range of goods and services and resources that usually just go waste! Time, for example: what if we all gave some of our free time to a cause? Or our expertise? Could we offer to help a deserving NGO with our valuable skills for an hour or two each week? If a brand organised the whole effort and made it happen with their resources, wouldn’t its image improve in the eyes of its customers?

And why just time or skills? What about little things we never even think about like our outdated visiting cards or one-sided paper printouts that we throw in the trash – couldn’t we find a better use for those than filling trash cans? And old electronics I’m sure would find takers too – especially the phones and cameras and gadgets that lie around in the back of our cupboards. Couldn’t the components in those be taken out and reused?

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Some organisations like Goonj are doing a great job by collecting and redistributing clothes to the needy. Many corporates are seeing the benefits of associating with efforts like those, but we just need to glance at a landfill near our city to know how much more needs to be done.

I guess these are the perils of a modern consumerist economy where growth is measured by the increase in consumption. On a planet with finite resources that path will become increasingly untenable unless we foster a culture that moves away from ‘Use and Throw’ and adopts ‘Use and Reuse’.

Poverty does force a lot of reuse of things in a country like ours. But as development and progress trickles down we’re sure to see increasing consumer prosperity and a growing landfill and environmental crisis.

If all brands can step forward and raise awareness of these issues, adopt a cause as their own and encourage reduction of wastage and increase reuse, wouldn’t it make brand-consumer conversations more meaningful and relevant? A world in which business operates with that approach would also be a more sustainable world.

As producers and marketers of goods and services, lets look for recycling and reusing our resources more and more. In fact, let’s redefine USP to mean Unique Saving Proposition – saving resources for reuse by the needy, saving money for the company and the customer, saving the planet.

I don’t think we have an option except to learn from Mother Nature: in 6 billion years, the Earth hasn’t used a trashcan – everything is recycled!

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