The ethics of shopping

Have you ever wondered about the companies who produce the food we buy. We are bombarded with catchy jingles on television every 5-10 minutes, slogans, catch phrases and different versions of the same ad over and over and OVER! But have you ever stopped to think about who the company really represents, who they really belong to, which country owns them, what their moral and ethical stance is?

I’d like to share my favourite book with you… Or app, depending which way you roll.

Ethical Consumer Group

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I bought my first copy about 3 years ago from a stall at our local primary school’s fete. It only cost me a few dollars from memory and it was amazing. Since then I have upgraded to a newer paper version of the book and then most recently to the iPhone app. I LOVE it!

Classifications are:
A solid green tick – Praises, no criticisms
A light green tick – Lesser praises, no criticisms
A grey line – No praise, no criticism
A light red cross – Lesser criticisms
A solid red cross – Criticisms
A red crossed circle – Boycott call

There are further company assessments based upon environmental assessment, social, animal and business ethics, also rated in the solid and pale colours, both red and green. Then further information such as country of origin, industry alerts and animal ingredient alerts are added. It’s a pretty comprehensive assessment.

Taking a look at milk. Milk comes with the industry alerts of Bobby Calves and Animal products. Then there is the breakdown of companies. A few examples are – Dairy Farmers. It’s owned by Lion, an Australian company Kirin Holdings Australia own 100% of Lion and Kirin, a Japanese company owns 100% of Kirin Holdings Australia. Kirin have a lesser criticism rating. So, although Lion have a Lesser praise marking, following the chain back to the parent company can reveal different results.

There are several companies with boycott calls against them – Nestle, Coca-Cola Company, Proctor & Gamble, L’Oreal, Monsanto, The Body Shop and Uncle Toby’s to name just a few. Many of them are on the boycott list due to their parent company, which in many cases seems to be Nestle. For example, The Body Shop Australia is not on the boycott list itself but it’s owned 100% L’Oreal who have a boycott call that is partly due to animal testing, yet they also carry some of the boycott from Nestle who own 30% of L’Oreal and Nestle have their boycott call at least in part due to child labour, workers rights, water pollution and bottled water promotion. Oh what a twisted web!

I know that sometimes we make choices based upon taste over ethics (I am still a happy little Vegemite), there are times when I just can’t countenance the difference in price and sometimes there really no other choices, but I do feel so much better knowing that many, if not most of the supermarket products we buy are as ethical as we are able to buy. I can’t recommend this book/app highly enough. Please check it out.

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