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Debates Forum

  1. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    02 Sep '09 15:42 / 1 edit
    Ethical consumerism is the tailoring of one's purchasing power to promote corporate social responsibility. Every purchase we make (whether we choose to acknowledge it or not) is both a political and moral choice. If we do business with a corporation that has a horrendous human rights record, then in effect we are saying that we support the suppression of human rights. If we refrain from doing business with that corporation and instead do business with one that has a better human rights record, then we are taking a positive action toward promoting human rights. The same is true for any number of other positions, like environmental concerns, sustainability, workers' rights, animal cruelty, etc. Every purchase we make has an influence on those positions. There are some who contend that how we spend our money has by far a greater impact on those positions than does our participation in the electoral system, hence the slogan "Shopping is more important than voting."

    Most people these days realize this on some level, but in the past information has been very difficult to come by. So most people (myself included) have spent their money in random ways that have contributed to maladies they would normally find repugnant. But this is beginning to change. More consumers are beginning to demand a higher level of social responsibility from the corporations they do business with. And so we have a growing number of resources at our disposal to help guide us in making informed and ethical consumer choices.

    http://www.greenamericatoday.org/programs/responsibleshopper/
    At Responsible Shopper you can compare companies within an industry and you can get information on individual companies. So we can see, for example, that within the 'Supermarket' category Trader Joe's is the best corporate citizen while Walmart is dead last (no surprise there).

    http://www.knowmore.org/
    At Knowmore you can search out any company and find out a great deal of information on them. Such as all the brands they own, the grievances against them and what commendable things they have done.

    http://www.goodguide.com/
    Good guide does, in fact, seem to be a good guide. They assign ratings by product. If you want a new toothpaste, for example, we can look up the category and see that 'Tom's Of Maine Whole Care Gel Spearmint Toothpaste' gets an exalted 8.8 rating, while 'Aim Gel Toothpaste, Tartar Control' gets a lowly 5.2.

    http://www.crocodyl.org/
    Crocodyl is a wiki-style corporate information portal that offers information on a large number of corporations.

    Anyway, for someone who wants to take control of their purchasing power and make it a positive force for change, those are a few resources that can help you make better choices in your shopping routine. Remember, shopping is more important than voting.
  2. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    02 Sep '09 15:51
    I don't know what's there to debate, but for the info on the sites alone you get a rec.
  3. Subscriber AThousandYoung
    Poor Filipov :,(
    02 Sep '09 17:24
    Originally posted by rwingett
    Ethical consumerism is the tailoring of one's purchasing power to promote corporate social responsibility. Every purchase we make (whether we choose to acknowledge it or not) is both a political and moral choice. If we do business with a corporation that has a horrendous human rights record, then in effect we are saying that we support the suppression of hu ...[text shortened]... choices in your shopping routine. Remember, shopping is more important than voting.
    Excellent post! Thank you.
  4. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    02 Sep '09 21:42
    Just a few examples of things I've done in the last week to help my purchasing power promote social responsibility:

    As I mentioned in my first post, Goodguide.com gave Tom's of Maine toothpaste an 8.8 rating. This was their highest ranked toothpaste. I purchased two tubes at Rite Aid for $3 apiece. This will now replace my former tube of Crest (6.4 rating). Their products are made without any artificial ingredients and without animal testing. They are the only all natural toothpaste to earn the American Dental Association's Seal of Acceptance. Just to muddy the waters a little, a check on Wikipedia revealed that in 2006 a controlling 84% stake of Tom's of Maine was purchased by Colgate-Palmolive. The terms of the purchase stipulate that Tom's of Maine's (socially responsible) policies will be retained. So far it appears they have. According to Responsible Shopper, Colgate-Palmolive gets middling marks for environment, labor and ethics and governance. Not spectacular, but far better than Proctor & Gamble (who get terrible marks). So the final verdict: Tom's is in.

    A weightier matter is credit cards. I've had a Citigroup Visa card for many years. Much to my chagrin, Responsible Shopper gives Citigroup terrible marks in just about everything. They are tied for last in their banking category. This will not do. So I'm looking into a Visa card from Wainwright Bank to replace it. From Wikipedia:

    Wainwright Bank is a nationally-recognized socially progressive bank in Boston, lauded as a “rebel with a cause making its reputation as a champion of social-justice causes, throwing its support behind everything from the gay-rights movement and affordable housing initiatives to immigration reform and the anti-Iraq war movement.”

    Sounds good to me.

    The third area, as I mentioned in another thread, is tennis shoes. Responsible Shopper gives New Balance the best marks in the athletic wear category. Adidas comes in last. New Balance is the only company that still makes athletic shoes in the US. So I went online and bought one of their American made models.

    Anyway, the point of this overly long post is that the information is out there now. With a little research we could all become ethical consumers. And contrary to popular opinion, it doesn't always cost more. Often they're comparably priced. The problem is just finding out that they're there in the first place.
  5. Standard member Scheel
    <blank>
    02 Sep '09 22:04
    Originally posted by rwingett
    Ethical consumerism is the tailoring of one's purchasing power to promote corporate social responsibility. Every purchase we make (whether we choose to acknowledge it or not) is both a political and moral choice. If we do business with a corporation that has a horrendous human rights record, then in effect we are saying that we support the suppression of hu ...[text shortened]... choices in your shopping routine. Remember, shopping is more important than voting.
    Who watches the Watchmen ?

    How do you ensure the impartialness of these advisory sites, how do you keep track of their involvement and interests ?
    How do you weight different concerns against each other. Is a company that abuses the enviroment but use western labour at western wages worse than a carbon neutral company that eats kids in Myanmar.

    This seems like a great step you are taking, but what are your thoughts on the above issues, how are you dealing with that dilemma ?
  6. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    02 Sep '09 22:16
    Originally posted by Scheel
    Who watches the Watchmen ?

    How do you ensure the impartialness of these advisory sites, how do you keep track of their involvement and interests ?
    How do you weight different concerns against each other. Is a company that abuses the enviroment but use western labour at western wages worse than a carbon neutral company that eats kids in Myanmar.

    This s ...[text shortened]... taking, but what are your thoughts on the above issues, how are you dealing with that dilemma ?
    The sites that give ratings, or rankings, explain the criteria they use to derive them. Examining a particular company will reveal the categories there were of concern. So if you value one category over another, you can adjust your personal rating accordingly. Some don't give ratings at all, they just tell you about the company, all the good and the bad. You can check the sites by cross referencing them against one another. If they all give Walmart terrible reviews, but one praises it, then you might want to dig a little deeper.

    There is a lot of information out there. Not all of it is complete or easily digested, but it can be done. The purpose of the thread is to give people some ideas on where to start and hopefully ease them into it.
  7. Subscriber Wajoma
    Die Cheeseburger
    03 Sep '09 00:27
    Originally posted by rwingett
    The sites that give ratings, or rankings, explain the criteria they use to derive them. Examining a particular company will reveal the categories there were of concern. So if you value one category over another, you can adjust your personal rating accordingly. Some don't give ratings at all, they just tell you about the company, all the good and the bad. Yo ...[text shortened]... e of the thread is to give people some ideas on where to start and hopefully ease them into it.
    Good for you rwingett, free expression in a free market.

    Scheel, I expect the companies themselves would be the watchmen making sure that nothing fraudulent is said about their products.
  8. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    03 Sep '09 02:25
    Originally posted by Wajoma
    Good for you rwingett, free expression in a free market.

    Scheel, I expect the companies themselves would be the watchmen making sure that nothing fraudulent is said about their products.
    So, are you boycotting Walmart now?
  9. 03 Sep '09 13:55
    Originally posted by rwingett
    Most people these days realize this on some level, but in the past information has been very difficult to come by.
    ...
    Anyway, for someone who wants to take control of their purchasing power and make it a positive force for change, those are a few resources that can help you make better choices in your shopping routine. Remember, shopping is more important than voting.
    The problem is that as soon as such practices take hold then it quickly becomes very much like politics. The danger is that your shopping choice can have unintended consequences just like your vote.
    As already posted by Scheel: "Who watches the Watchmen?".

    I realize that your resources are much needed, rather like an independent reporter reporting on politics. However, how do we know what the resources interests are (just as media often has interest groups getting involved).

    In our discussions in the thread about buying locally it became apparent that we had different views as to what sort of spending was good for whom. If we are mistaken about that (as one of us probably is) then surely one of us will end up buying wrongly?
    Further, the websites you referenced in that thread also seemed so suffer from a certain amount of bias - special interest groups again.

    Last but not least, spending choices, like sanctions in politics, can have unintended consequences. Quite often you can end up hurting the people you are trying to protect. For example boycotting a company that pays its workers low wages will not result in higher wages for those workers but will probably result in them having no jobs.
  10. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    03 Sep '09 14:45
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    The problem is that as soon as such practices take hold then it quickly becomes very much like politics. The danger is that your shopping choice can have unintended consequences just like your vote.
    As already posted by Scheel: "Who watches the Watchmen?".

    I realize that your resources are much needed, rather like an independent reporter reporting on ...[text shortened]... not result in higher wages for those workers but will probably result in them having no jobs.
    You have a few legitimate points. I do not pretend that my buying habits will now be perfect, but I know that they are improving. It is entirely possible that I may take a few false turns, or that there may be some unintended consequences, but that is not going to lock me into a perpetual state of paralysis. You seem to be advocating doing nothing for fear of making a few mistakes along the way. That is unacceptable. I will paraphrase Admiral Farragut by saying, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." The gravity of the situation demands it.

    I don't know what special interest "bias" you claim to have unearthed. But I will say for my part that there is no such thing as a left wing bias. There are only right wing biases.

    Once again, I disagree bitterly with your assessment of boycotting low wage companies. I have absolutely no interest in debating the effects of higher wages on unemployment. I take it to be axiomatic that in the long run higher wages will lead inexorably toward a better and more just society. If you wish to argue the contrary, then we simply have nothing to talk about.
  11. 04 Sep '09 07:17
    Originally posted by rwingett
    You seem to be advocating doing nothing for fear of making a few mistakes along the way. That is unacceptable.
    I know I have a tendency of pointing out the negatives, but I am not advocating doing nothing. I find many faults in the political system - yet I do not advocate not voting. I am just warning against making the mistake of thinking that voting for a given party is all roses. In Zambia we are usually faced with the choice between two terrible candidates and you basically choose the lesser of the two evils.

    I don't know what special interest "bias" you claim to have unearthed. But I will say for my part that there is no such thing as a left wing bias. There are only right wing biases.
    Call it what you like, the websites you referenced were clearly biased.

    Once again, I disagree bitterly with your assessment of boycotting low wage companies. I have absolutely no interest in debating the effects of higher wages on unemployment. I take it to be axiomatic that in the long run higher wages will lead inexorably toward a better and more just society. If you wish to argue the contrary, then we simply have nothing to talk about.
    Why do you react so strongly and defensively? What is the harm in discussing it? Surely you would want to know the truth, and if you do know the truth you would want to persuade me of it? I have no political affiliations nor religious reasons for believing one way or another, I simply state what I have observed personally and what I have deduced from that. If I am wrong then I would welcome correction as I too wish to buy in a way that benefits both society and me personally.
    My ex-wife has worked in the Aid industry for quite some time. I have learnt from her experiences that one must choose wisely when giving aid as it is all too easy to focus on the wrong things and benefit the wrong people or benefit nobody at all or even cause major problems. I do not advocate stopping aid, I simply think that one should think first.
    My sister is a farmer and involved in the farmers union in Zambia. The US sent a delegation and they asked what they could do to assist farmers in Zambia, my sister said, "reduce your farm subsidies". They said, "don't even talk about that, it is an election year". One thing that has consistently hurt farming in Zambia is wheat donated by Canada and Maize donated by the US both of which are given in the name of aid, but are really just those countries unloading surpluses caused by farm subsidies.
  12. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    04 Sep '09 22:14
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I know I have a tendency of pointing out the negatives, but I am not advocating doing nothing. I find many faults in the political system - yet I do not advocate not voting. I am just warning against making the mistake of thinking that voting for a given party is all roses. In Zambia we are usually faced with the choice between two terrible candidates and ...[text shortened]... f aid, but are really just those countries unloading surpluses caused by farm subsidies.
    In an electoral political system there is a specifically contested position. There will be one vote, with the result enshrining one particular candidate to the exclusion of the others for a set period of time.

    If we equate each purchase we make as a 'vote' on a particular set of corporate policies, then the 'election' is continually going. Every purchase is another 'vote' and the candidates are all continually in the race. There is no specified office and there is no final resolution to the voting process.

    I do not think that voting with one's dollars is necessarily a good or fair way to decide corporate policies. But that is part of what the system offers us, so it would be foolish not to make use of it. When someone votes in a political election, they do not pull the levers at random (at least I would hope not). They have done some research on the candidates and they cast a deliberate vote. On the other hand, a vast majority of consumers are casting completely random votes with their purchases. They have done no research at all on the corporate policies they are effectively endorsing and in most instances are oblivious to the fact that they are 'voting' at all.

    My objective is to encourage people to view their purchasing power as a form of voting. To take charge of that process and use it in a deliberate and consistent way. To realize that every purchase they make is both a political and a moral choice and for them to take responsibility for the choices that they make. Discussing specific government fiscal or economic policies is outside the scope of this thread and I do not wish to spend time getting bogged down on them. I may or may not agree with you that farming subsidies are a bad thing, but the topic simply does not interest me at this particular moment.
  13. 04 Sep '09 22:49
    One concern I have is that if the "buy local" ethic becomes sufficiently popular, the corporations will eventually hijack it and turn it into a new marketing scheme.

    An example is what we're currently seeing with the concept of "organic". It's become increasingly popular to buy food that is "natural" or "organic" with the idea that these foods are better for you. And many of these foods clearly are better. But when I'm at Whole Foods, I find that much of the food is just as over-processed and junky as the stuff at a normal supermarket. The only difference is that the food here might have words like "nature" or "healthy" or "organic" on the label, and a picture of an idyllic pasture. It might make a big deal about having some exotic berry in it or some grain that was used by the Egyptians. Then I look at the label and find it's nothing but sugar, salt, and-or oil (all natural, of course).

    So even at Whole Foods, I have to carefully look at labels to pick out the food that is truly healthy. And I have to resist the cute mammal begging me to buy his sugar-laden cereal.

    So just imagine what cute tricks companies will employ to make their offerings appear local. One idea would be to create brands that "sound local" - maybe a multinational company could put out peanut butter with the names of local towns in the each of the many areas where it's being sold - leading people to assume the peanut butter was actually produced in those towns. I'm sure Rwingett would be smart enough and diligent enough to see through something like this, but the public at large may well be fooled.
  14. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    04 Sep '09 23:43
    Originally posted by Melanerpes
    One concern I have is that if the "buy local" ethic becomes sufficiently popular, the corporations will eventually hijack it and turn it into a new marketing scheme.

    An example is what we're currently seeing with the concept of "organic". It's become increasingly popular to buy food that is "natural" or "organic" with the idea that these foods are bett ...[text shortened]... e through something like this, but the public at large may well be fooled.
    Caveat emptor. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

    It's funny you should mention peanut butter, though. I get all my peanut butter from East Wind Community, which is a 75 member egalitarian commune in southern Missouri. Since I used to make it myself, I know exactly where it's coming from. But for the other products, yeah, it can be tricky sometimes. It pays to familiarize yourself with some of the organic seals that can go on products that meet certain standards. For example, the NOP (National Organic Program) is in charge of defining the standards that must be met for something to be considered 'organic.' They would then carry the 'USDA Organic' certification on it.
  15. 05 Sep '09 19:50
    Originally posted by Melanerpes
    One concern I have is that if the "buy local" ethic becomes sufficiently popular, the corporations will eventually hijack it and turn it into a new marketing scheme.

    An example is what we're currently seeing with the concept of "organic". It's become increasingly popular to buy food that is "natural" or "organic" with the idea that these foods are bett ...[text shortened]... e through something like this, but the public at large may well be fooled.
    Actually organic food is not more healthy.