As members of society, it is up to each and every one of us to make informed decisions on the products we buy, supporting brands that reflect our own morals and beliefs, and using our power as consumers to influence the shape and form of the economy we rely on.
Internationally brands have cottoned onto this idea of consumer power and there is a growing trend towards providing products that attempt to live up to the demands of consumers, from free range livestock and dairy, to organically grown produce, fair trade goods and more. However, many companies have ‘green credentials’ that are shaky at best, and widespread ‘green-washing’ has led to a growing number of sceptical consumers who discredit all who claim to have ‘green’ intentions.
As consumers, we must approach everyday products with care, bearing in mind that in today’s capitalist society, the main goal of any company is still profit, often over environmental responsibility or the ethical treatment of animals. It is important to question the credentials and validity of companies and the claims they are making.
However, it is also important to realise that in some cases, even the best intentions of a company are not adequate to completely mitigate the destructive or negative consequences of their product. In this instance, it is up to you, the consumer, to change your habits and buying patterns to best reflect your own core beliefs.
For example, around the middle of 2011 there was large consumer outcry against the Fair Cape Free Range™ range of milk, which, according to consumer activists was blatant false advertising, as the cows spent a good deal of their lives in barns, and not in pasture. However, Fair Cape’s response was that the cows had access to barns to protect them from scorching summer heat, and that the cows were grain fed during certain months as pastures die back during the hot summer months. They argue that although their cows are not 100% free range, the practise of keeping them in large barns during the summer months is in the best interest of the cows.
So is Fair Cape at fault for misleading consumers into believing their milk is 100% free range, or are they actually doing the best that they can, given the environmental and technical realities of their industry?
But being a conscious consumer is about more than just questioning the actions of companies, but questioning one’s own consumer decisions and morals also. Is it, for example, morally defendable to drink the milk of another mammal for your entire life, long after you were weaned off of your mother’s milk? It seems a bit strange to me, come to think of it.
So, the next time you go shopping, ask yourself questions about the products you buy, and if you don’t know the answers, do some research, educate yourself, and expand your consumer consciousness.
Here are some links to help you on your way:
What are your thoughts on being a conscious consumer? Tips, techniques, concerns? Add a comment and lets get some dialogue flowing.