A couple of weeks ago, I chastised the Talley group and particularly their local industries - Affco Imlay, Land Meats and Open Country Dairy - for lack of community consciousness.

I was, in turn, chastised for my views, making me wonder whether I was being unfair.

Perhaps it is not the role of businesses to have a moral compass, to feel any compulsion to put anything back into the community other than the wages they pay to local workers. It was, I am sure, a complete coincidence that a week after that editorial hundreds of Kiwis stumped up the money to pay for a crowd-sourced advertisement in the Nelson Mail newspaper calling on Talleys to negotiate fairly with its employees. Talleys' treatment of workers has gained some notoriety. The Nelson Mail is the local paper of Sir Peter Talley.

The advert may not have any impact on life at the meatworks, but it was an interesting way to give voice to a community, and is in keeping with a growing trend of public pressure on companies to do the right thing - even if it may not, at first glance, seem to be the most profitable thing.

Advertisement

Earlier this month, such pressure from conservationists prompted Fonterra to agree to use only responsibly-produced palm oil products. The palm oil industry has resulted in mass rainforest destruction and, as a Greenpeace spokesman said: "People don't want to be consuming products linked to the destruction of the world's last remaining rainforests."

Meanwhile, demands from customers have helped persuade Countdown supermarkets to phase out eggs from battery-caged hens.

People's purchasing power is a mighty weapon if enough get together and vote with their wallets, and - if the moral argument doesn't do the trick - it can present companies with a compelling economic argument to behave responsibly.