A view from Gemma Charles

Disruptors should be good too

Shiny, new tech companies have to take ethical issues seriously.

Those new disruptive businesses feted by the marketing industry have found themselves on the sharp end of some old-school disruption known as industrial action.

UberEATs, the new food-delivery service from the cab hailing app, was hit by a wave of protests from its drivers last week. They want to receive a basic hourly rate while Uber would rather pay them per delivery – a move the drivers claim equates to "poverty wages". Uber says its pay proposal is above the London living wage but the drivers aren’t having it and plan to step up their action with high-profile pickets at top restaurants in the capital.

Over at Deliveroo, another food-delivery company, which is hailed as one of the UK’s most successful tech start-ups, it’s a similar story. The drivers there are up in arms over a new pay structure, currently being trialled, which the company insists is fair and flexible. In a fitting move – given Deliveroo’s technology background – the protesters crowdfunded for a strike fund and drummed up publicity for their cause, gaining backing from the likes of prominent left-wing journalist Owen Jones.

These stories serve as stark reminders that even shiny, new tech companies such as these in the so-called "gig economy" have to take ethical business issues – workers’ rights in this case – with the utmost seriousness. While the current trend is for big FMCG companies to seek to imbue a start-up culture by working with tech upstarts, they can certainly offer back some valuable learnings on how to create purpose-led businesses. 

In addition to the obvious moral case for ethical behaviour, this issue of Campaign, which has a "marketing for good" theme, has plenty of examples of the emergence of a new breed of consumer that expects brands to do the right thing. There’s been a shift to activism and these consumers have an acute awareness of the power they hold as purchasers.

A Sonar survey reveals that 75% of millennials say they actively research the behaviour and policies of the brands they buy. And comprehensive research by BBMG and GlobeScan describes a new "aspirational consumer", who is not defined by their age but by a sense of idealism and a desire for their purchases to make a positive impact on the world. Ignore the "aspirationals" at your peril – they represent 39% of the adult population. The study, which surveyed 22,000 respondents in 22 international markets, found aspirationals want brands to do things such as provide healthy products and pay their employees fairly.

As new waves of disruptors emerge, it is surely only a matter of time before a key differentiator in the eyes of consumers is whether a brand can demonstrate that it is a force for good.