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26 May 2014

How many wake up calls does 'ethical' business need?

epicfailFirst it was the Co-op debacle, then it was the revelation that gender pay differentials are worse in CSR than in wider industry and now we get told that FairTrade maybe isn't actually so fair after all.

Yep, a study by the UK Government and SOAS has found that, rather than paying higher wages via the 'FairTrade' premium, some certified producers pay workers less than large 'unethical' farms in Ethopia and Uganda. FairTrade have responded that this isn't comparing like with like - that you should compare small non-FairTrade with small FairTrade.

THAT. IS. NOT. THE. POINT.

When you or I, as ethical consumers, go to a shop and pay over the odds for produce which we are told was produced by people paid a fair wage for their work, then we expect just that. If the same people can get the same job down the road at a non-certified producer and get paid more to produce products which cost the consumer less, then we are being swindled, plain and simple.

My patience with the 'ethical' sector is wearing very thin. It is very much starting to look like an industry taking advantage of concerned consumers to line their own pockets.

 

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23 November 2009

Interface's socially sustainable product

I had a great interview with Nigel Stansfield of Interface on Friday. I met Nigel in 2002 on Schumacher College's now sadly defunct Business & Sustainability course*, but I didn't realise at the time that he had been given two year's (nearly) complete freedom to explore and understand sustainability. Nigel's role is Senior Director of new product development - covering both incremental improvements to existing products and big step changes in product/service concepts. Note that the word sustainability doesn't feature in his job title - it is a core role of everyone at Interface.

Interface's commitment to sustainability is astonishing - they have the corporate goal of a zero footprint by 2020. They have recently started to get stuck into the social side, developing a new product made from sustainable materials in India where all the actors in the supply chain are assured a fair price - it would be a FairTrade product if FairTrade had a protocol for floor coverings - it really is that cutting edge. The video below describes it better than I ever could!

FairWorks from Just Means on Vimeo.

* I am developing plans for a similar intensive residential course for senior sustainability practitioners, but with an emphasis on sharing experience rather than being lectured by a guru - if you would be interested in such a thing, get in touch and let me know what you would like out of it.

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