Buying Local — Isn’t it really about Social and Environmental Responsibility?

Commenting on Elizabeth Spiers post "Benefits of Buying Local?" A great blog post about "Exploding the myths, presumptions, and pretensions of the bullies."

Different models like buying local, Organic, Green, etc help organizations and individuals get at responsible principles more easily, but the onus is still on each of us to be asking alert and precise questions that provide answers and change.

In sharing the models and principals of socially responsible business and the conscious consumer, we ask organizations and individuals alike to consider Fair Trade principles when buying. When Fair Trade is not possible we suggest buying local in a context where you can talk with the retailer or producer who knows the provenance of the good or service.

By speaking with someone local connected to a short and/or transparent supply chain, a conscious consumer can determine if they are participating in a fair trade. In its essence a fair trade should reflect true cost providing a living wage (not a sweatshop or slave labor wage) to all who had a hand in producing the good. A true cost also reflects care for a factors of environmental sustainability. This is complicated. For many of us it will require an evolution in the way we select and consume goods.

Questions Conscious Consumers should ask:

1 Transparency and Accountability: is it possible for me to learn where the materials to make the good came from and who made, transported, distributed, and retails the good? Can I contact anyone of these organizations if I want to learn more?

2 Capacity Building: is this good helping to build the economies of where it is made and sold or is it holding those economies, workers, or consumers hostage in some way?

3 Payment of a Fair Price: is each person in the process of making and getting this good to me paid a fair price in the local context agreed through dialogue and participation?

4 Gender Equity: if women participate in this process, is women’s work is properly valued and rewarded?

5 Working Conditions: is each person in the process able to work in a safe and healthy working environment?

6 Child Labor: if children of working age are working, are the children’s well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play met?

7 The Environment: is each person in the process of making and getting this good to me using and encouraging better environmental practices and responsible methods of production?

8 Trade Relations: is each person in the process of making and getting this good to me being paid on time and able to learn what I am paying for the good as the end consumer if they choose to investigate?

— Adapted from the IFAT Fair Trade Principles by PTC

If everyone began to participate in the conscious consumer movement by focusing on just one good each – would buying local be a focus? If everyone were being paid a fair trade wage, would buying local be a topic of discussion and concern? While you enjoy your next sip of coffee, in your favorite t-shirt and savor a nip of your favorite chocolate bar will it be at the expense of the chance for a happy and productive life for the grower, the habitat of an animal, or a school education for a child?

——- Kellee K. Sikes, serving social entrepreneurs and social enterprise
The Business of Social Responsibility Fast Company magazine blog

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  • Nick DiGiacomo

    The biggest challenge to making informed and responsible choices is the availability of reliable information about the companies with which you do business.
    Take the eight aspects listed above (taken from IFAT) - how does a consumer or citizen sift through the pro-corporate marketing, anti-corporate activism to get to the essence of a company's reputation?
    We've built a tool that can help here. Using web-based social media, we try and capture and quantify what consumers and citizens think of how companies treat their customers, employees, communities, the environment and society in general.
    It's called Vanno ( ). You can compare and contrast Reputation Scores for thousands of companies - local and global, private and public, large and small - based on 23 different aspects of reputation, including sustainability, diversity, community involvement, human rights, product safety, employee relations. You can also vote and comment on the user-submitted Articles that determine the Scores, and submit your own insights into companies with which you are familiar.