Buying Products With a Conscience
Guest post: Written by Manuel Aguinaldo on behalf of Bhutan Travel
The average consumer makes buying decisions based on features, price and product design. Conscientious consumers, however, consider topics outside this narrow realm. They want to know what kind of conduct and activities are practiced in the production of their purchases. A product’s conscience is a reflection of its manufacturer’s actions and conduct. The conscientious consumer won’t make a purchase if those actions and conduct are out of step with what he believes is ethical behavior. For example, during the nineties, conscientious consumers initiated a boycott of canned tuna because dolphins were regularly killed in tuna nets. The actual product may not have contained any dolphin meat, but it wasn’t considered a conscientious purchase because of egregious production methods. Due to the boycott, companies sought new ways to fish for tuna without killing large populations of dolphins. Consumers ended the boycott once these companies initiated better practices. In addition to having concerns about ethical practices, the conscientious consumer understands that when he is spending money on a product, he is also supporting a company’s activities. A consumer who does not approve of the conduct of America’s largest tobacco corporation, Phillip Morris, may choose to forgo products from other companies owned by Phillip Morris, such as Tombstone, Jell-O or Kraft. A consumer concerned with a product’s conscience will be knowledgeable about where a company produces its products. He understands that when he purchases a product produced in another country, he is supporting the practices and conduct of that country. For example, during the eighties, the apartheid in South Africa inspired a boycott of all products produced there. Non-democratic countries such as China, Burma, Indonesia, and export processing zones like Mexico, Haiti and the Philippines are known for exploiting workers, making products from these places questionable. Of course, a conscientious consumer is concerned with more than just the ethical practices surrounding the production of a product. Still, he will spend a little bit more money on the version of a product whose production practices he supports wholeheartedly over a product that doesn’t meet his ethical standards. This is a consumer who considers a product’s conscious along with price, features, overall benefits and product design. The practice of conscientious consuming is meant to fiscally punish those companies who do not bother to create an ethical environment for the production of their products and to reward those that do.
What is the best way to become a conscientious consumer?
To practice conscientious consumerism, the average buyer must educate himself about the practices of various retailers and manufacturers. Modern consumer concerns include factory farming, environmental damage, excessive packaging and fair wages. Contacting companies to inquire about their practices is the first step to becoming a well-informed conscientious consumer. The internet is a vital tool for researching manufacturers and their practices. When shopping, it is important to scan packaging for labels and union labels. By doing so, a consumer will be able to discern where a product was produced. If this information is difficult to locate, ask a store manager for assistance. Consumers can also request that retailers supply them with their sourcing policies. If a retailer isn’t willing to give this information, its practices may be questionable. It’s important to consider the global impact a purchase can make. Where does the money go and how does it affect workers and global economics? Begin keeping a record of purchases made, and as you do so, discover where and under what conditions they were produced, and who is ultimately profiting from their sales. Finally, ask yourself whether you can live without the products that don’t stand up under scrutiny.