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How do you respond to people who argue that conscious consumption isn’t effective for bringing about safer, better-paid, more humane labor conditions?

Sean Murray from Fair Trade St. John’s University June 1, 2016

Anyone read this Huff Post piece (“The Myth of the Ethical Shopper”), or seen articles/videos like it? Thoughts? Further Questions? Ideas on how Fair Trade advocates can respond?

Community Answers

  1. 1) The efforts of boycotts and protests should not be minimized. These organizing methods are an important step in the direction of social change within supply chains, and have led to businesses implementing critical policy/organizational changes. Take for example the boycotts of 2000 against Starbucks

    2) In regard to inspections and audits as ineffective,
    The Fair Trade model provides a system where there is accountability for non-compliance. The system does not guarantee that there will never be non-compliance with standards, but rather it implements mechanisms for accountability. Take this example from FLO in regard to the discovery of child labor:

    “When non-compliance are found, Fairtrade’s certification body will impose appropriate sanctions, ranging from corrective actions to decertification. While immediate action follows child labour findings in an audit, the exact consequence is assessed on a case-by-case basis according to the established criteria (e.g. the numbers of underage workers found, whether the child labour found was unconditional worse forms or hazardous worse forms, the condition of labour, impact on health and education, and so forth).”

    If standards are not adhered to, certification can be revoked, but also in certain situations, FT certifying organizations will work with individuals to make improvements and changes. Many FT certifying organizations also have a system in place for any allegations or reports of noncompliance. Essentially, transparency in a supply chain allow concerned individuals to address issues. It is important that these systems are in place so that there is incentive to prevent harm and abuse in the workplace, but also they are important because they provides an opportunity to correct any issues as well.

    Tori Curbelo - 8 years ago
  2. Hi Sean

    This is a really great question and unfortunately, like with other social movements or campaigns, this will always come up. Although we would like to have a unanimous viewpoint or attitude about consumption, that is not possible – so as much as we would love for everyone to be all for the Fair Trade movement, we have understand that there will be opposition to our cause (which is completely fine).

    When approaching this scenario, think about what it is in the first place that drew the attention of your supporters. What worked well and what didn’t? How can you improve your message? WE as Fair Trade advocates know the material so use that to your advantage. WE know how Fair Trade work can effect communities all over the world – why not share that with folks! However, keep in mind the approach you make. How can we spin our message in a positive way rather than in a negative way?

    When someone you know consumes an excessive amount of junk food, how do you respond? Do you tell them “that’s really bad for you” or “you shouldn’t eat or drink that stuff”? If so, perhaps transmit your message differently. Studies have shown that people would much rather not know that a company that they like to purchase products from has some unethical practices just so that they can keep purchasing from them. Instead of telling your friend (or whomever) that what they are consuming is bad for them, offer them an alternative. “Have you tried [insert product here]? I heard they are really great.” It is a work in-progress but we have to keep at it and stand with conviction on what we know as Fair Trade advocates.

    Remember, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and we can’t win over everyone. All we can do is learn from the opposition. If we can understand their viewpoint, opinions, and/or attitudes towards a topic, then we can turn that little bit of negative into a positive.

    Jackie Cummings - 8 years ago
  3. Tori and Jackie – great responses to this multi-faceted question! I think that dialogue is the best avenue to creating understanding and important that we are ALL always questioning our ethics and values on a daily basis. Personally I would approach this reflecting on and sharing my own personal experience and what I have seen/heard in being impactful – I don’t think anyone can dispute your personal experience or be offended by it…

    nbhatt - 8 years ago

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