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Ethical Consumers to Change The World

As Christmas approaches and the shopping lists are written we thought it was a good time to share this challenging blog from Joanna Pollard – Chair of BAFTS. Her call to think about where our products come from is one we should all be listening to……

 

“Friday 30 September saw the latest annual conference from Ethical Consumer magazine*. Bringing together a range of people involved in fair, ethical and sustainable trade, this year’s conference was based around the theme of collaboration to change the world. Some of the key speakers were: Rob Harrison, founder of Ethical Consumer, John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, on boycotts, Marilyn Croser, Director of CORE on corporate social responsibility, Fiona Gooch from Traidcraft on campaigning to hold big business to account and Sarah Ditty, Head of Policy at Fashion Revolution on transparency in the fashion industry.

 

Ethical and sustainable products are increasingly popular among consumers, largely due to an increased understanding of how unethically produced many high street products are. Fair trade campaigners who started off as part of the Fairtrade Towns movement now campaign for trade justice across a range of sectors. It is great to see the Fairtrade mark on widely available products such as Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Gregg’s coffee, we must never forget that this mass movement towards Fairtrade happened because we mobilised efforts in our own communities. Thousands of fair trade campaigners lobbying councils, working with shops and cafes and of course working like fair and funky in schools increased awareness of the importance of choosing Fairtrade.  By working collaboratively we have changed the way British people shop in just a few years.

 

But while our supermarkets are stocked with Fairtrade goods, other sectors are much slower to catch on. Wouldn’t it be great to see the huge increase in availability for Fairtrade food products like bananas, tea, coffee and chocolate replicated in other shops – shoe shops, clothes shops, gift shops? Working conditions in many of these sectors are notoriously poor. Fashion Revolution was started in response to the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2014 which killed over 1,000 garment workers. Now the challenge is to raise awareness of ethically traded fashion and start to bring it into the mainstream.

 

There are several ways we can work together to campaign for better choices on the high street: The most important thing we can do is to make our own choices ethically. We can choose to boycott goods produced in regimes we disapprove of, goods sold by companies which are not transparent in their dealings, or which do not pay their fair share of tax. And we can seek out alternatives, rewarding those companies which behave ethically. Here Ethical Consumer and BAFTS are able to help, showing us where fair trade and ethical alternatives to the high street exist. The Fair Tax mark is also growing in popularity with large brands like SSE and Lush awarded the mark to help us to choose to spend our money with companies which do the right thing, unlike so many multi nationals.

 

We need to make sure large companies take their responsibilities seriously. We need to make sure they know where their goods come from, how they are made and to make sure they are contributing fairly to the communities where their goods are made and sold. We need to keep asking questions, letting them know these things are important and we need to do all this together. Campaigning for fair trade is only the start. We have already had a consumer revolution in Fairtrade, and if we continue to work together as ethical consumers we can start a revolution in fashion and other sectors.

 

Working together in collaboration with people who care about the same things we care about is incredibly rewarding. Businesses are big, but together we are bigger. We want the ethical choice to be the obvious choice, let’s make it happen. “

 

*There are images and videos on the Ethical Consumer website: http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/aboutus/conference2016.aspx

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