As ethical traders, producers or advocates, we all feel we are in the business of making the world a better place through our trade and/or influence. What constitutes ethical can be as varied as we are. Some of us are attempting to halt the destruction of our planet and environment, some of us want to ensure that people living in poorer parts of the world are treated fairly and well. And it is difficult to fulfil the requirements to be entirely ethical.
It is also unfortunate that it can often be the case that fulfilling one aspect of our ethical mission can often put us at odds with other aspects of being an ethical business person. For most us of, our mission is to get people to buy things off us – which is fine, because we are producing quality goods ethically and fairly. However, one of the best ways we have of saving our environment from further damage, is to minimise our consumption radically. Everything we buy that is not an absolute to sustain us, carries with it, a carbon footprint. For the environmental ethical business person, this is a dilemma, in finding a product, which has such quality, it will last, or is essential.
When this has been successfully achieved, the next dilemma is whether this environmental mindset is then standing in the way of allowing workers and producers from poorer countries to benefit from access to our markets. Mend and make do, locally sourced and vintage, as environmentally ethical forms of trade, can have the effect of denying market access to fair trade producers from poorer countries. And while imported fair trade products will carry that extra burden of carbon footprint to get here, can now also be hit by our recent hatred of plastic. In a very short space of time, anti-plastic environmentalism has gone mainstream. While some credit David Attenborough for this, it does seem quite a coincidence that it is happening at a time when China has halted imports of our badly recycled plastic. It will be harder, however, for products produced in poorer countries to adapt as quickly as they are being asked to by western consumers.
While it is the case that some fair trade products do not meet all the environmental standards, it is also the case that many environmental products do not meet fair standards. I have come across eco products which really have not considered the workforce producing their products, or distributing them (Amazon- is used by many such companies, despite its well known appalling record on workers rights and tax evasion). And speaking of tax evasion, it is such a shame that there seems to be no alternative to using Facebook. Ecosia, has been a breath of fresh of air in allowing me to go Google free and plant trees for a non profit, whilst getting equivalent content to Google.
In my business, I am trying to minimise the transport footprint, through shipping not air freight, my products are organic certified cotton, are fair trade, use traditional eco friendly dying processes, with fair and decent working conditions in India. I do not use Amazon or such organisations to sell my products and I am trying to eliminate all single use plastic. I hope I am getting there, but we all have a way to go to tick all the boxes.
Cormac McCarthy – owner of Their Story – www.theirstory.co.uk