Ethical Shopping

A rich farmer and a poor farmer make the sell product. The rich farmer is subsidised making his prices drop. Overproduction is encouraged and the surplus is exported. Local farmers can’t compete with the cheap international product. Poor farmers sink deeper and deeper into poverty and their farms close.

This sad story is the reality for most little farmers in some of the poorest countries in the world including Ethiopia where coffee-growers earn about 3 US cents for every cup of coffee sold at Starbucks.

The global trading system is worth $10 million a minute. The developing nations in our world earn only the smallest fraction of this – a fraction which is rapidly diminishing as the industry grows. At every turn the small, local farmers are undercut in favour of the big international companies and cannot compete in a system where trade favours the richest and most voracious businesses.

But what can you do to change this? Help make trade fair!

Fair trade means jobs, which in turn means a stimulated economy, which in turn puts food on the table and helps developing countries climb out of the deep pit of poverty. There are many ways in which we can support this and make sure farmers get paid the right amount for the products they produce. The first is by campaigning for ethical trade rules:

In our world trade rules are made on the basis of commericial interests. The rich and powerful take the largest share of the profit and the poor get left with nothing. If, however, all the trade barriers were removed than the World Banks estimates that trade goods would generate between $250 billion and $620 billion in extra global income, with up to half going to the poorest nations. So, by campaigning for ethical trade rules groups like Oxfam and The Fairtrade Foundation fighting for trade rules to be established with contribution to poverty reduction, respect for human rights and environmental sustainability in mind. It is only by doing this can the developing nations in our world create for themselves a sustained livelihood and develop to their full potential. And you can do your bit by signing online petitions, contacting your local politicians, attending demonstrations or getting involved in campaigns

Here are some other ways you can help out:

Ethical food and clothes shopping
Next time you go shopping keep an eye out for foods marked with The Fairtrade Foundation FAIRTRADE mark or any other symbol that indicates they have been made with the poor farmer in mind. You, as the consumer, has an enormous amount of power when you go to the supermarket. Sure these products cost more but by simply refusing to buy, say battery-cage eggs, you are saving thousands of hens from a life crammed into dirty, tiny cages, and sending a powerful message to those big, corrupt companies. But shopping for food in a ethical way doesn’t mean you have to go without. Almost every product on the market now have a fairtrade alternative, everything from Vodka made organically, to soft drinks, clothes, baby food, baked beans and even jam. By choosing to spend even a fraction of your shopping budget on fairly traded products you are ensuring that the farmer gets paid the right amount and that communites aren’t being abused and exploited. But if you’re unsure if a product is fairtrade organic check out the Ethical Consumer website listed below or do a little research on the company and help keep our supermarkets fair!

Ethical Energy
With all the media attention on global warming and climate change this one is a no brainer. Excess use of non renewable energy isn’t just ensuring that our future generations have to resort back to fire to warm themselves but is also damaging our world and shortening our life. The pollution that comes from burning and using such energies as coal is just a problem for the enviornment or developing nations, it is a problem for everyone. You’re probably thinking, my energy use is nothing compared to that of the factories, so even if i reduce my usage they won’t so the problem can’t be fixed, right? Well, just because factories continue to pollute doesn’t mean you can’t help save the enviornment in your own small way. So here are somethings you can do:

- buy energy-saving light bulbs
- buy A-rated energy-saving appliances
- double glaze your windows
- switch the power off from the wall unit when not in use
- turn appliances off completely rather than leaving them on standby
- If you’re feeling really adventureous, switch to solar energy to heat your water

Ethical Banking
Now this is a new one. Who would’ve thought that banking and investing could help save the world? By choosing a bank or building society that is just as dedicated as you to helping developing countries you can save money just as ethically as you spend it. Normal banks invest your money where ever they feel like and can even be investing that money into companies that abuse their workers or engage in unethical business practices. Ethical banks, on the other hand, do everything normal banks do including accounts, credit cards, mortages, loan business banking, but they only invest your money government or companies which uphold basic human rights. Now that’s green banking! Here are some of the best known ethical banks:

- Co-operative Bank, also known on the internet as Smile
- Triodos Bank
- And if you’re building a new house: Ecology Building Society

For more information on fair trade and ethical shopping check out these website: