Ethical Consumption 101

As a member of the capitalist subspecies known as a corporate communicator, one of my duties is to produce our web-based newsletter, which contains a sustainability tip. Here’s the most recent:

Sustainability Tip: Help for the basket case

By now many people know the basic reasons why you should eat organic foods. But not everyone can afford to buy organic every time. So how to prioritize?

Grist takes up that question, noting that the Environmental Working Group has put out a guide to pesticides in produce, listing the cleanest and dirtiest dozen.

Consumer Reports has a list with good explanations about which items to buy organic as often as possible, which to buy if price is no object, and which not to bother with.

But just as I was researching what to write about, I saw a story about a study that argued, “ethical consumption is most likely to happen when it is approached as a political or societal goal rather than encouraging individual changes in lifestyle.”

In other words, “awareness-raising” (what I’ve been doing) isn’t what people lack. What they lack are “realistic alternatives.” Thus,

In order to successfully encourage people to adopt ethical consumption activities, it is important to call on their specific identities, as for example a member of the local community or faith group, rather than just targeting them as ‘faceless’ and ‘placeless’ consumers.

The pithy pullquote from Dr. Barnett: “If ethical consumption campaigns are to succeed, they need to transform the infrastructures of every day consumption rather than focusing on changing individual consumer behaviour.”

Greaaat. Now all I have to do is turn my entire 1,000-employee company into a food cooperative.


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