This resource discusses strategies communities and consumers use to make buying decisions based on their ethical principles. Learn why ethical consumerism is important and also learn about the laws which protect consumers. It is not always about the product but how the product is made, the materials used, and the social responsibility of the company.
What Communities Can Do
- Promote fair trade and become a fair trade community;
- Promote second hand, charity shops, and used bookstores;
- Promote and take part in Buy Nothing Day and Buy Nothing Christmas;
- Buy recycled products;
- Organize a Carrotmob campaign;
- Find eco product supplies;
- Support or set up zero waste suppliers;
- Support sustainable, green or eco-tourism initiatives;
- Practice event greening;
- Promote closer to home tourism;
- Lobby for government action to enforce the use of bio-degradable plastic bags by supermarkets, or banning plastic bags altogether;
- Encourage the use of reusable shopping bags;
- Encourage use and appreciation of local and community resources.
Why it Matters
Ethical Consumerism – buying things that are made ethically, i.e. without harm to, or exploitation of, humans, animals or the natural environment. This generally entails favoring products and businesses that take account of the greater good in their operations. An extension of the idea, doing more with less, overlaps with the first part of reduce, reuse, repair and recycle.
Sustainable Consumption Controversy
"Yet individual initiatives alone do not necessarily help to build strong, healthy communities (although they can free up time that could lead to greater community involvement), nor can they address the structural obstacles to genuine consumer choice the lack of organic produce in the supermarket, for instance. Some critics even argue that, pursued in isolation, individual initiatives can be counterproductive.
"An 'individualization of responsibility,'" notes political and environmental scientist Michael Maniates, "distracts attention from the role that such institutions as business and government play in perpetuating unhealthy consumption. Moreover, to the extent that individuals see their power residing primarily in their pocketbooks, they may neglect their key roles as parents, educators, community members, and citizens in building a society of well-being."
- "No political challenge can be met by shopping." George Monbiot
- "Faced with a choice between the survival of the planet and a new set of matching tableware, most people would choose the tableware." George Monbiot
- “Anyone who believes in infinite growth on a finite planet is either mad or an economist.” David Attenborough
Consumer protection is a group of laws and organizations designed to ensure the rights of consumers as well as fair trade, competition and accurate information in the marketplace. The laws are designed to prevent businesses that engage in fraud or specified unfair practices from gaining an advantage over competitors. They may also provide additional protection for those most vulnerable in society. Consumer protection laws are a form of government regulation, which aim to protect the rights of consumers.
For example, a government may require businesses to disclose detailed information about products –particularly in areas where safety or public health is an issue, such as food. Consumer protection is linked to the idea of consumer rights, and to the formation of consumer organizations, which help consumers make better choices in the marketplace and get help with consumer complaints.
Other organizations that promote consumer protection include government organizations and self-regulating business organizations such as consumer protection agencies and organizations, the Federal Trade Commission, ombudsmen, Better Business Bureaus, etc. A consumer is defined as someone who acquires goods or services for direct use or ownership rather than for resale or use in production and manufacturing.
Consumer interests can also be protected by promoting competition in the markets which directly and indirectly serve consumers, consistent with economic efficiency, but this topic is treated in competition law.
Consumer protection can also be asserted via non-government organizations and individuals as consumer activism.
Fair trade is an organized social movement whose stated goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainability. Members of the movement advocate the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as higher social and environmental standards. This movement requires particular actions of the purchasing managers and other personnel, that is directly responsible for purchasing and can affect the level of green consumering.
The movement focuses in particular on commodities, or products which are typically exported from developing countries to developed countries, but also consumed in domestic markets (e.g. Brazil and India) most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers, gold and 3D printer filament. The movement seeks to promote greater equity in international trading partnerships through dialogue, transparency, and respect. It promotes sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers in developing countries.
Carrotmob is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California. It uses buycotts (a form of consumer activism where a community buys a lot of goods from one company in a small time period) to reward a business's commitment to making socially responsible changes to the business. Carrotmob also refers to a global movement of community organizers who use the Carrotmob tactic of consumer activism as a way to help change businesses in their communities. In a Carrotmob buycott, businesses compete to be the most socially responsible business, and then a network of consumers spends money to support the winner.
"Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy." Tourism can involve primary transportation to the general location, local transportation, accommodations, entertainment, recreation, nourishment and shopping. It can be related to travel for leisure, business and what is called VFR (visiting friends and relatives). There is now broad consensus that tourism development should be sustainable; however, the question of how to achieve this remains an object of debate.
Eco hotel is a hotel or accommodation that has made important environmental improvements to its structure in order to minimize its impact on the environment. The basic definition of a green hotel is an environmentally responsible lodging that follows the practices of green living. These hotels have to be certified green by an independent third-party or by the state they are located in. Traditionally, these hotels were mostly presented as Eco Lodges because of their location, often in jungles, and their design inspired by the use of traditional building methods applied by skilled local craftsmen in areas, such as Costa Rica and Indonesia.
Today, eco hotels also include properties in less "natural" locations that have invested in improving their "green" credentials.
Green conventions or green meetings are conventions which are conducted in ways which minimize the environmental burdens imposed by such activities. Green event planners apply environmentally preferred practices to waste management, resource and energy use, travel and local transportation, facilities selection, siting and construction, food provision and disposal, hotels and accommodations, and management and purchasing decisions. The practice is known as "event greening" or "sustainable event management".
Green conventions, meetings, conferencing and events are part of an international movement to achieve a sustainable world economy and livable planet.
Volunteer travel, volunteer vacations, volunteer tourism or voluntourism is travel which includes volunteering for a charitable cause. In recent years, "bite-sized" volunteer vacations have grown in popularity. Volunteer vacations vary widely in scope, from low-skill work cleaning up local wildlife areas to providing high-skill medical aid in a foreign country. Volunteer vacations participants are diverse but typically share a desire to “do something good” while also experiencing new places and challenges in locales they might not otherwise visit. Potential volunteers may wish to satisfy themselves that projects involve local communities sufficiently, meet locally identified needs and are consistent with local community aspirations.
Source: Phil Green, Amanda Sparks and David Evans, https://www.appropedia.org/Ethical_consumerism#cite_note-1
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