Sunday, August 30, 2009

You have more power than you think

My friend Lori gave me a book called “The better world shopping guide”. It is based on the premise that every time you make a purchase you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. The book goes on to rank companies in different categories so you can decide which ones you want to support (by buying their products.)

The main issues are human rights (for example, child labor or fair wages), the environment (such as toxic waste dumping, sustainable farming), animal protection (humane treatment, ecosystem impact), community involvement (volunteer efforts, local business support) and social justice (cover ups, harassment, class action lawsuits).

Here is a list of the 10 best companies on the planet based on their social and environmental records: Seventh Generation, Working Assets, Eden Foods, Organic Valley, Clif Bar, Honest Tea, Patagonia, Tom’s of Main, Ben &Jerry’s, Aveda.

There are many companies out there that need to clean up their acts whose names won’t shock anyone (Walmart, Tyson Foods, Kraft) but others that surprised me: United Airlines, Samsung, Nestle, Nabisco, Planters. Gerber, for example, won the “most irresponsible” corporation award and is involved in a child slavery lawsuit, as well as aggressive takeovers of family farms. Chapstick is on the list of “top 100 corporate criminals”. There is evidence that M&M’s suppliers use child slave labor.

In most cases, it’s a matter of being informed and switching from one brand to another. Take cereal: Raisin Bran, Shredded Wheat and Grape Nuts have an “F” raking, while Cascadian Farm has a B+, for example. Kashi could do much better and is currently a C. Or Chocolate: Toblerone ranks F, while Dagoba ranks A.

The reason I liked this book so much is because it reminds me that as a consumer we have more power than we think. With this information, we are in a better position to use it.


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