Does what you buy make a difference? Have a look at this new resource to help you make consumer choices that can support better lives for children. Click here to download this guide as a PDF.
Does what I buy make a difference?
Twenty years ago people bought what they wanted without a second thought for the people who made it or the impact on the environment. Companies knew this and simply gave consumers what they wanted, at the lowest price—regardless of cost to the people who made it or to the environment. The drive to maximize profits at whatever cost is still the norm–but it is changing!
People are now more aware of the hidden costs of products. Terms like “fair trade”, “sweatshop free”, “green”, “buy less”, and “buy local” are part of our everyday shopping decisions. And companies’ practices are changing in response. Look at the chocolate industry: more and more companies are offering fair trade chocolate.
Consumers like you are seeking out ethical products and companies are responding – coffee, tea, flowers, and bananas are just a few examples. So, “yes” what you buy does make a difference. The more people practice ethical consumerism and talk it up, the more businesses will become ethical in their production.
What about child slavery?
Much of the forced work of children happens in ways we never see in Canada. It happens on farms, on fishing boats, in road building, in people’s homes, and in factories, mines and quarries. It is hidden from public view and often unknown even by companies that benefit from this work.
For this reason, what we purchase is only part of the solution. World Vision has launched the Help Wanted campaign to promote change in government policies and business practices that will support these children. We also come alongside families to address poverty and the lack of access to basic needs such as food, health and education; this helps prevent children from being forced into 3D jobs—work that is dirty, dangerous or degrading.
Visit the Help Wanted page and join the campaign by signing the pledge. Then get involved by taking the actions listed.
Ethical consumption—where to start
There are several resources and tools available to consumers to help them be ethical or at least more informed consumers. World Vision has identified some simple tools you can use to get started or to support the ethical consumer choices you are already making.
Fairtrade: The Fairtrade certification process through Fairtrade International (FLO) prohibits the use of child labour—work that is hazardous, exploitive or that undermines a child’s education or emotional and physical health.
Fairtrade conducts audits to ensure compliance with child labour laws and standards. If child labour is found in businesses with Fairtrade certification, FLO tries to work with the business and community to solve the problem. They seek to find solutions and manage the risk that children would face if work were to suddenly be stopped.
Good Guide: www.goodguide.com is an impressive website that rates companies and products on environmental and social performance as well as health risks. Each product is given a score out of ten for Health, Environment and Society. They have a toolbar to download on your laptop or tablet, and a smartphone app that can scan barcodes and give you the scoop on the product.
Made In A Free World app allows you to ask companies about slavery in their supply chains as they shop. You can share your check-ins with friends so they can help.
We suggest you try out the tools and decide what works best for you. Everyone says if they were around 150 years ago, they would have been involved in the fight against slavery. Now you can!
PS: What about my cell phone?
Cell phones often make the news as connected to child slavery and conflict. However, there are currently no certification tools or widely supported regulations by all of the companies involved in the production of cell phones to ensure that the phone is free from child slavery. The number of people and companies involved in the manufacturing process is significant — from the minerals required to make your phone vibrate (tungsten) to the final product.
There are initiatives under way to try to understand the supply chains that result in the phone in your hand and what can be done to make sure that no child or adult was exploited in the process. Stay with us as World Vision looks into what can be done.