Buy This, Not That

Use your money to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem! No matter how cash-strapped you may be, the very fact that you live in America makes you richer than roughly 70% of the world.  Every time you make a purchase, you have the ability to either support businesses that further contribute to injustices, or those who take a stand for human rights around the globe. Here’s a “buy this, not that” list to help you get started on your journey to becoming an injustice-free consumer.

Coffee
Don’t Buy:  Maxwell House,
Folgers, Nestle
According to human rights organization Global Exchange, these “Big Three” U.S. coffee retailers are responsible for 60% of the nation’s coffee bean import volume, and therefore hold substantial influence over coffee harvesting and importing practices in source nations. By refusing to push for reforms—reforms that have the potential to impact profits—these companies are only further contributing to low wages paid to coffee workers and to workers utilizing child labor as a vehicle to meet their daily quotas.

Do Buy:  Green Mountain Coffee
gmcr.com
According to Fair Trade USA, this Vermont-based company was the largest importer of fair trade coffee beans in 2011. Lindsey Bolger, the company’s Senior Director of Coffee Sourcing and Relationships, states that this translated into a $9 million positive social impact in the small farming communities of Central and South America.  With reasonable prices, a wide selection, and even available “K-Cups” for Keurig single-cup brewers, Green Mountain’s offerings are sure to satisfy even the pickiest of coffee connoisseurs.

(Noteworthy:  Starbucks has set a goal to see that all of their coffee is “ethically sourced” by 2015.  In 2011, 86% of all Starbucks coffee purchased met these criteria, an increase 2% from 2010).

Apparel
Don’t Buy:  Urban Outfitters, Aeropostale
According to businesspundit.com, these retailers (among others) source the majority of their cotton from Uzbekistan, a nation where the government itself endorses and even forces child labor in the cotton industry. Business Pundit also reports that, despite more than 70 other large retailers making commitments to “address forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry,” Urban Outfitters, Aeropostale and even Toys ‘R’ Us have taken no such steps.

Do Buy:  Hello Somebody
Products:  T-Shirts, Hoodies, Watches, Fragrance
hello-somebody.com
Non-profit Hello Somebody says that they “exist to provide sustainable projects and restorative care to improve the lives of children in need.” This is accomplished by meeting real needs in four specific categories: food, education, hydration and freedom. Purchases from Hello Somebody’s online store directly fund these relief and advocacy efforts, and their products are both stylish and affordable.

Do Buy: Not for Sale Store
Products: T-Shirts, Scarves, Jewelry, Outerwear
notforsalestore.org
With products manufactured by women who are either former trafficking victims or who are at high risk of being trafficked, the profits from this retailer fund Not for Sale, one of the world’s leading anti-trafficking organizations. Purchasing from Not for Sale helps advance anti-slavery causes on many levels, by: raising awareness (through the anti-trafficking messages printed on the apparel they sell), providing employment for former or potential trafficking victims, and funding Not for Sale’s trafficking abolition efforts around the globe through the proceeds raised.

Chocolate
Don’t Buy:  Hershey’s (Reese’s, Kit Kat, Heath, York Peppermint Patties, and more)
The Huffington Post reports that the International Labor Rights Forum, outraged over Hershey’s use of trafficked child laborers in its West African cocoa fields, had plans to run an ad exposing the Hershey’s human rights violations on a jumbotron screen outside of the Superbowl in Indianapolis earlier this year. That exposé was cancelled after Hershey’s pledged to implement some positive changes by the end of 2012 but, sadly, those changes will reportedly only impact a miniscule segment of Hershey’s chocolate product line.

Do Buy:  Divine Chocolate
divinechocolateusa.com
According to the company’s website, Divine Chocolate is “the only Fairtrade chocolate company which is 45% owned by the farmers. While Fairtrade ensures farmers receive a better deal for their cocoa and additional income to invest in their community, company ownership gives farmers a share of Divine’s profits and a stronger voice in the cocoa industry.” With a plentiful and decadent selection, as well as an online store that will ship right to your front door, the marginal price increase over conventional chocolate is well worth it.

Underwear
Don’t Buy: Victoria’s Secret
Financial news organization Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched an investigation in late 2011 into allegations that the 600 metric tons of cotton annually sourced by Victoria’s Secret from the African nation of Burkina Faso are produced with forced child labor. The retailer has vowed full cooperation with the investigation.  However, research shows that, as early as 2008, the company ignored reports containing detailed information on the forced child labor practices in Burkina Faso.

Do Buy:  Hanes (also owns Bali, Playtex, Wonderbra, and more)
hanes.com
Not for Sale’s “Free2Work” company rating website (freetowork.org) gives Hanes a “B+” rating on worker’s rights and an “A-“ rating overall on its trafficking-free rating scale (based on an “A” through “F” grading system).  The Hanes website states that “we strive to be an ethical and responsible organization in every country throughout the world in which we operate.”

While the above list is far from comprehensive, it is meant to be a snapshot and a template that you, as a consumer, can use to research the products that you purchase to ensure that they are slavery-free. Using the wealth afforded to you by your American citizenship, you can use your dollars to make a real difference!

For more information on ethically produced products, visit:
freetowork.org
fairtrade.net
fairtradeusa.org

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