Some business analysts have expressed concern that increasingly popular shopping promotions like Black Friday and Cyber Monday which recently set tills rattling at record levels might take some steam out of Christmas shopping - traditionally our purchasing pinnacle.
There's no doubt that these global retail phenomena stimulate considerable consumption, but perhaps there's a silver lining to this Christmas cloud?
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Maybe it's time to re-examine our Christmas giving and what it all actually means? Less about consumerism and the frantic shopping frenzy and instead, more about supporting those in need - fostering that charitable and philanthropic spirit and energy that abounds in Kiwis.
If charity begins at home, then nobody demonstrates this better than Kiwis. New Zealand has the densest population of charities in the world, in fact we have a registered charity for every 169 people. In comparison, the same ratio applies to 432 people in Australia, 648 in the USA and 2,262 in China.
While we're clearly a charitable bunch, many of these good causes find it ever harder to fundraise and maintain the financial support they require to do the valuable work they do.
Christmas is an ideal time to remember those doing charitable work, and to underscore the link between giving and philanthrophy. This is particularly relevant to corporate giving, but can be just as empowering in our personal and family lives. Our experience at the Co-op Bank has been that this brings rewards in quite unexpected ways.
A year ago, we moved from giving traditional gifts to staff to empowering each member of our team to give to a charity of their choice using a Good Gift Card from the Good Registry. The results were incredible, and we're doing this again this Christmas.
Not only do we know our spending is going to a wide range of good causes, but our team responded beyond all expectation, and the feedback was very humbling. Team members told us how emotionally powerful and engaging it was to re-discover the spirit of giving, and that it gave renewed meaning to the Christmas season, coupled with the nature of giving, upon which it's founded.
As a team, we've completely rediscovered the spirit of giving at Christmas. And how, if we channel it to where it's needed most, we can make a real difference to our communities.
So my challenge to companies, CEO's and executives throughout the country, as well as individuals, is to reconnect to the spirit of giving this Christmas. We needn't forgo the pleasure of giving and receiving gifts, but we should deepen this sense of pleasure and connection with a more philanthropic approach. As we've discovered as a company, it enhances the joy of Christmas knowing that by sharing these types of gifts, we're also supporting those organisations working tirelessly throughout New Zealand to make a difference to our communities.
And for those already worried about the excess of consumerism at Christmas – or any other time of the year – giving in this way means there's no packaging, wrapping or waste, reducing our environmental impact, too. We can do good for ourselves, our community and our environment, which is a message I wanted to share this Christmas in the hope that other companies, families and communities might enjoy this same sense of connection.
As leaders, we can have great intentions, but it's our actions that really matter.
- David Cunningham is chief executive of The Co-operative Bank