But how much does it really cost?

Posted on 21 Mar 2011 in Support Ethical | 3 comments

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Every day we make choices about how we spend our money: this one, or that one? what’s the difference? which is better?, and of course – which is cheaper?

But the thing is, when it comes to cost – particularly in food, the price doesn’t always reflect the true cost.

On top of that, shouldn’t we know where our money’s going when we pay for stuff? What does the company do with it’s profits, what other activities does it invest in?

These days our till receipt is as important as our vote; when we make a choice to buy something we are giving our money – and therefore our support – to whatever that organisation does, and however they behave.

The Ethical Company Organisation gathers loads of information about products and brands and uses a clear scoring system so we can see how “good” they are.

They show whether our friendly family brands quietly invest in things like nuclear power, GM or the sale of weapons, or if they care about the welfare of people they work with, or if they get involved with political backscratching. Things we should know about if we’re the ones giving them the money.

They publish their findings in smart tables in The Good Shopping Guide, and now they’ve got a neat app that helps too – see their website for a good video that tells you all about it.

We’re also loving this new project Price Pie, which finds clear ways of showing us where our money goes, and helps companies be more honest and open about how they operate.

Do you think companies should be more transparent about what they get up to and how they treat people, animals and the planet? Do you think we should be allowed to make our own choices based on fact?


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3 comments

  1. Cat A / March 22nd, 2011 9:35

    Well Ruth & Amy – I am truly blown away by the professionalism of your website – excellent work and very strong values to hang your hat on. However, as a fully paid up member of one of the Food Industry giants I want to give these builds to provoke some thoughts:
    – in my personal experience it is Market Share that drives true change, as opposed to profit. Brands that are losing share will take very different decisions to those that are winning. This is very important as it puts the true power with Consumers – vote with your feet, change your Brand choice, and industry will react accordingly.
    – similarly Retailers are just ‘brokers for space’ – they effectively rent out shelf space to the Brands that are winning and delist the losers…
    – but here’s a key thought… in the last 18 months the C1 C2 profile have indeed been voting with their feet… they have consistently bought in to more BOGOF promotions on fresh produce that inevitably end up in the bin… they have bought in to more Private Label and Brands on price alone rather than more expensive, more ethical alternatives… and have given the Food Industry a clear message that cheaper is better.
    – so we are all empowered to make a difference… as you rightly point out we need to make a different choice as to what to put in our basket and it will cost us more in the short term, but rest assured when your previous Brand choice’s share heads south that’s when Industry will sit up and take notice.
    – my advice? Use your site for a call to action – publish for your ‘consumers’ the choices that won’t cost them too much initially (by the way I do think it ‘unethical’ for an Ethical company to charge for a publication that helps consumers make the ‘right’ choice – £15 would put a lot of people off…?) and perhaps give out the App free to the first 100 (non mates!) Consumers to ‘Like’ your site??
    – Finally – Good Luck! I will continue to challenge from the inside – go Hellmanns Mayo made with Free Range Eggs unlike some competitors I could mention ;-). We’re not perfect but we are an oil tanker trying to turn… x (phew, I’m off for a large tub of Fair Trade Ben & Jerry’s!!)

    Reply

  2. Ruth / March 22nd, 2011 11:22

    Cat,
    Wow – thanks for reading everything so thoroughly and giving us such well thought through feedback! You’ve given us some great snippets and I’m gonna pass on your comment about the Ethical Consumer straight to them through Twitter… they could definitely be giving away the App free to get it out there more.

    Yes, the food giants have a big part to play in making the food industry more ethical – and more and more of the tankers are slowly turning to genuinely include more responsible or less harmful sourcing practises, like your Hellmanns example. We want to see more of this and push them as hard as possible to keep it up.

    I totally hear you on the message people are sending the industry when they go for the buy one get one frees and reward it with market share! They are of course making their choices on the information and the prices they have in front of them. The problem is that the information and the prices are “imperfect” (as economists call it!)
    Why? Because people are lacking:-
    1. Clear information i.e. knowing exactly what they are buying and what went into making it.
    2. Prices that reflects the true value of the product eg. to make food really cheap requires cheap oil, mass production & distribution and cheap labour. The side effects of these processes can be harmful (pollution, poor health from obesity or chemicals used in farming, poor animal welfare, environmental damage, exploitation of workers) but none of these externalised costs are visible in the price or to the person buying the stuff.

    Here’s an example on cheap salad which really sums this up…
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/feb/07/spain-salad-growers-slaves-charities

    I think you are absolutely right that people are empowered to choose differently (once they have the info and price to do it.)

    I love your idea about publishing easy ways for people to make a difference without spending a fortune, which is not realistic. We will start blogging on this straight away! So if you have any suggestions on this (based on your experience as a Mum as well as your career) you could send ’em in or blog for us.

    RUTH

    Reply

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