It’s not uncommon to believe we are the recipient of whatever companies offer us, and although it’s true we don’t have complete freedom – forced to choose between whatever is available – there still exists “consumer power.” As food companies remain controlling and exploitative, it’s important we exercise this power by voting with each meal. In short, this is ethical consumerism: consumer-based activism.
The ethical consumer can select items because of positive aspects, i.e. they are good – or negative – i.e. boycotting companies and refusing their products because they are bad. Whether something is considered good or bad is based on several factors, the most common of which include how ethical and green the company is, as well as the nutritional content. More specifically, the ethical consumer wants to consider issues pertaining to animal and human rights, the ingredients, and the potential environmental impact from production, processing, transportation, and consumption (such as chemicals, pollution, and toxins released into the air, ground, or water supply).
The more information provided on the label, the easier it is to make that all-important decision as to whether something is good or bad. These days the country of origin, ingredients and nutritional content is mandatory, in addition to which a number of other labels have been introduced to prompt positive consumption.
1. FAIR TRADE
The fair trade movement arose in response to multinational corporations introducing unethical business practises. No official definition for fair trade exists but the principles behind the movement include guaranteeing fair prices, both to cover production costs and help facilitate local, social and sustainable development, increasing transparency whilst promoting long-term relationships; and helping to secure rights for the producers and workers by guaranteeing a safe workspace, forbidding child and slave labor, and facilitating a right to unionise.
It wasn’t until the introduction of the first fair trade certificate that the movement started to expand, but with this came an increase in consumer trust and an ability to venture into the mainstream market. Now the fair trade certification system covers a growing range of products, including bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, nuts and oil seeds, rice, spices, sugar, and tea. Companies who offer products that meet the set of standards can use one of the various certification marks.