Category Archives: Environmental ethics

10 Reasons Why You Must Improve the Environmental Performance of Your Business

Gareth Kane asked:

1. You are wasting money

Between 2006 and 2008 I carried out simple half-day environmental health checks in 26 businesses ranging from catering through printing, engineering and construction to major pharmaceutical companies. I identified an average saving in waste, raw material, energy and water costs of £175,000 per annum, per company. And those health checks barely scratched the surface.

One of my favourite definitions of waste is ‘anything you buy that you cannot sell’ . Savings from cutting waste (whether that is wasted materials, energy or water) comes straight off your bottom line. If your profit margin is 25%, every £1 saved in this way is equivalent to £4 worth of new sales. And unlike cutting staff, cutting waste costs improves rather than detracts from your ability to deliver value to your customers.

2. The true cost of your waste can be immense

I despair at the number of businesses who go to great lengths to manufacture a high value product and then reverse a forklift truck into it or spill it on the floor during packaging. Most businesses know how much waste costs to dispose of, but the true cost of this type of waste is much higher as it includes:

• Disposal costs;

• Raw material costs;

• Energy and other utility costs for manufacturing;

• Labour costs both from the original manufacturing and the clean up;

• The cost of the disruption required to fulfil orders including knock-on effects on other orders;

• Opportunity costs of not being able to sell that product;

• Opportunity costs from poor customer satisfaction (eg lost future orders).

3. Your energy, water and waste costs are rising

Energy costs doubled between June 2007 and 2008. Waste costs continue to rise as landfill tax escalates and the type of materials that can be landfilled are restricted. Indications from the government are that it will continue increasing the Landfill Tax by £8 per tonne each year up to a level of at least £48 per tonne (from £32 per tonne today). In areas such as the South East of England, water resources are becoming ever more scarce so costs are rising. Doing nothing on environment performance means going backwards rather than standing still.

4. Your customers or clients demand it

If you sell to the public, certain markets are going solidly green. The proportion of white goods rated A for energy efficiency sold has risen from 0 to 76% in the ten years to 2006. 70% of baby food sold in the UK is now organic.

If you sell to other businesses, then your environmental performance becomes their environmental performance. Increasingly larger organisations are demanding information on suppliers’ performance and Local Authorities and other public sector bodies are turning to ‘green procurement’ to meet Government targets.

5. Your compliance costs are rising

There are literally hundreds of pieces of environmental legislation being drafted in the EU and the UK Government. Continually shifting incrementally to keep ahead of the law is an expensive hobby whereas eradicating problems completely is cheaper in the long run and keeps you miles ahead of the lawmakers.

Regulators such as the Environment Agency are increasingly taking a risk based approach to enforcement. If you routinely store hazardous materials, or they regard your practices as poor, they’ll be knocking on your door much more often than if you have eradicated the hazards and have tip top housekeeping.

6. You may be risking prosecution

Every three years the Environment Agency surveys small business’ attitudes to the environment. In 2005 only 18% could name one piece of environmental legislation that affects them, even though every company must comply with several pieces of legislation, for example, waste management regulations .

And it is not just small business who are at risk. In the last year, I have had several arguments with major household names who have misunderstood the scope of the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE). I really had to browbeat them into accepting that they were breaking the law, faced prosecution and the resulting PR fall out.

7. You are missing out on a great PR opportunity

With all the media attention on environmental issues, good environmental performance gives you a great opportunity to get good news stories into the media and advertising. Good solid green PR will impress the public, the pressure groups, your clients and customers and the regulators.

8. Pressure groups may give you a nasty surprise 

In 2007, Apple Computers had it all. From their stylish iMac and MacBook computers to the revolutionary and must-have iPod and rumours of a phone abounding, their fashionable, cutting edge image appeared unassailable. That was until Greenpeace put them bottom of an environmental league table of electronics companies and set up a parody of Apple’s website to detail their environmental infractions . Apple’s legendary CEO Steve Jobs at first dismissed the campaign, but only instigated a stronger backlash . Jobs then realised the precarious position he was in, with Apple’s hip image at serious risk. He did a swift u-turn, launching a radical programme to improve environmental performance and publicised it on the company’s home page for a month.

If you are a high profile business (eg a high street retailer, an energy company, a major construction company, a motor manufacturer, a producer of household goods or in the primary sector – mining, oil, gas, forestry etc), then you are at direct risk from environmental and human rights pressure groups. These groups need high profile campaigns like the Apple example to make the mainstream media take notice and are always looking for a ‘tall poppy’ to target. If you are a smaller business, but you do business with a high profile client, then pressure groups will hold them responsible for your environmental sins. This is a very easy way to lose a major customer.

9. Your staff want you to do it

Environmental and CSR initiatives are a determining factor in employee retention and engagement rates according to the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD). In the US, a survey of over 4,000 people carried out by recruitment job site MonsterTRAK found that 80 per cent of young professionals are interested in securing a job that has a positive impact on the environment. Meanwhile, over 90 per cent claimed they would prefer to work for an environmentally friendly employer. In the UK, a survey of 5,000 job hunters showed that 43% would not work for a firm which had no ethical or environmental policies, even if they were offered £10,000 a year more than to work for a business with a sense of corporate social responsibility.

10. Your competitors are doing it

The 2005 NetRegs survey found that 71% of businesses had made at least one practical step to improve their environmental performance . Some sectors have seen green issues come right to the fore eg the current great green supermarket wars where Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s are fighting it out to get the best green image. Sir Timothy Leahy went on the record this year to say that Tesco’s plans would not be affected by the ‘credit crunch’ as he believed consumers’ values would not change . He sees this as a serious part of maintaining Tesco’s competitive advantage over its rivals.

If your competitors have a better environmental performance than you, then compared to you they will:

• Have lower operating costs and either a higher profit margin or a more competitive pricing structure;

• Be more robust to future change: new legislation, green taxation, and customer demand;

• Have better PR and marketing opportunities;

• Have better motivated employees and will be attracting the best new recruits;

• Have less risk of prosecution, NGO campaigns and a lighter touch from the regulators.

Well, they’d be mad not to, wouldn’t they?

Christians And Environmental Ethics – A Strange Combination?

Gorazd Andrejc asked:

You can find very different attitudes towards environment and global warming problem among Christians. There are of course Christians who simply do not care and do not see any real connection between their religion and the idea to save the planet. Religion is about saving humanity, spiritually speaking, not the planet, right? Before moving to the answer to this question, let’s have a quick look at another, even less eco-friendly Christian attitude.

Many Christians (evangelicals) believe in the second coming of Christ, but some of them believe that Christ’s second coming is imminent, that it will happen very soon. Majority of those in this second subgroup also point to global warming phenomenon as a sign before Christ’s coming – a prime example of such a sign actually! Such interpretation of the prophecy also includes the claim that we really can’t do anything in this matter to make things better. The belief, that Christ will come very soon and that global warming is an important sign of His coming, naturally leads to the belief that there is no point in “saving the planet”. Not only will this planet burn in destruction in a very near future, but you are actually working against the prophecy (and so against God) if you are trying to save the planet. Not to mention the peril of wasting your time and energy you should use for other more important things to do. The comment of the late evangelical leader Jerry Falwell, that “the myth” of global warming is a “Satan’s attempt to redirect the church’s primary focus” is just one expression of such a position.

Even if these beliefs are not so explicit and widespread, and despite the change of mood in the environmental issues among the evangelical leaders in the USA in last couple of years, there is still a general feel of relative passivity in relation to the environmental issues among many evangelical and also other Christians. In the internet and in other media you will much more likely find new-age believers and atheist defending the green attitude. Why? Majority of new-age belief-systems include belief in (equal) sanctity of all life, a belief in Gaia Mother Earth, and similar. These beliefs inspire new-agers to action. Atheists on the other hand believe that this world, however bad and imperfect, is the only world we have. So whatever we feel, we better do something about it or we will simply cease to exist as a race! If there is no afterlife you naturally have a very strong motivation to preserve this life and this world.

So, what about Christian beliefs and environmental concern? Are Christian beliefs actually a disadvantage for someone who wants to take eco-friendly attitude? Not necessarily. This of course mainly depends on one’s choice of Christian theology. Which biblical messages are more, and which are less important and relevant today? Such hermeneutical decisions, for Christians who take Bible more seriously, guide their ethical priorities and lead to decisions.

There is an important difference between focusing mainly on the texts where God threatens to destroy the earth because of the sins of humans (e.g. “I, the Lord, now promise to destroy everything on this earth”(Zep 1,2)) and on the other hand focusing on the threats that He will destroy the destroyers of the earth (“It is time to destroy everyone who has destroyed the earth.” Rev 11,8). Also, the responsibility towards the whole of mankind, which is for majority the single most important reason why we should care about the environment at all, is present in the biblical idea of the first human couple and the human race as a big family (whether Adam and Eve are literal or a symbolic doesn’t matter here, the very idea of the human family is what counts). Yet another positive route to environmental ethics in Christian theology is praising the inherent value and beauty of Creation, which definitely doesn’t lack in the Bible (Gen 1:31, Ps 104, Rom 1:20, etc.). Most of these positive reasons for environmental concern are of course present also in Judaism and can be found in Islam too.

So, there are many starting points for a Christian believer when deciding why to take environmental issues seriously. Christianity need not be eco-unfriendly at all.

The Importance of Fair-trade and Ethical Products

Gen Wright asked:

These days technology is rising quickly, and it still does because it makes people’s life easier. Nowadays the web is used to do pretty much anything, from finding basic to complex information, meeting new people and even buying and selling products. Not like the old day when people need to buy something they always go to the market. Today we can stay at home, open our web browsers and with a few clicks we can get what we are looking for by having it conveniently shipped to our homes.

When it comes to technology it all sounds beautiful and simple but there is most definitively a downside. The cost of technology, in many cases, affects the well being of Mother Nature and by consequence ourselves thus, not being completely ethical. Many technologies that companies develop and produce are not safe to our planet and as a result these unsafe products can damage the earth. It is true that human kind cannot get anything without first giving something in return but in the process we forget just how valuable the things we sacrifice really are, for example, a farmer who plant coffee or rice will always want to get the best price for his work, he is part of the supply part of the market but in many cases people’s demand is too high which makes producers work even harder and putting more strain on the earth used to cultivate the good, if this process continues we will soon regret being part of this demand/supply chain because the one suffering and taking a big hit in the long run is Mother Earth. Striking a balance between fair pricing and lowering the impact the planet takes because of our demand is why fair-trade is important.

What is buying fair-trade? Fair-trade is a system of trade based on a direct relationship and partnership between buyers and producing community. Fair Trade makes sure that farmers and artisans receive a fair price for their products, have direct involvement in the marketplace, and uphold environmental and labor rights standards. The system builds real and last relationships between producers in developing countries and businesses and consumer. Buy fair-trade means that you make selection to the products you want to buy. You only buy products that are not giving exploitative to the earth (it is friendly product) and the products that already have a fair price.

What about the ethical products? The ethical products are some products that are made or create by thinking about the safeties for the earth. These like the friendly products or usually people said these are organic products. According to the latest information, people who buy organic products are increase. It is because they started to care with the planet earth that we are living in and great awareness of the issue surrounding the source of the products. And it is because many producers make organic products.

Even the organic products are more expensive but most people still choose to buy these products. Food and beverage are dominated ethical products that the consumers buy. Followed by eco-friendly stuff that most people say eco-green living. For example like clothing, house wires, jewelry, handicrafts, and accessories and of course the most important is organic foods (rice, vegetables, fruits and staples).

This fair-trade and ethical product is issue that is important to know and to do. Because this issue has many consequences for the producers, relailers and consumers. So, start from today why we do not buy in fair-trade and ethical products. It will give many benefits to us and also protect our earth. Just go green.

Eco-friendly Credit Cards: Ethical Opportunity or Cash Cow for Banks?

Caroline Poynton asked:

In a capitalist market seemingly obsessed with profit, the green bandwagon suddenly appears rather ironically overloaded with corporates. Whether it be big brand retailers, such as Tesco, or technology giants, such as BSkyB, business now seems intent on winning the hearts and pockets of the environmentally-conscious consumer.

Financial-services firms are the latest businesses to show a keen interest in the environment, with several banks now launching ‘green’ credit cards. Barclaycard, for instance, is introducing its ‘Breathe’ credit card in the summer. Made from PETG – a recyclable and more environmentally friendly alternative to the usual PVC – use of the card will also help generate funds for carbon-reduction projects. In the first year of its launch, Barclaycard has promised to donate £1m to environmental initiatives, with 50% of its profits from the card going to green causes thereafter. In addition, Breathe card holders can enjoy a preferential annual percentage rate (APR) of 5.9% on purchases of environmentally-friendly goods and services.

Other banks are keen to compete. Virgin Money is also developing a green card, which it claims outdoes Barclaycard because it is bio-degradable rather then merely easily recyclable. The Co-operative bank has also long offered a range of affinity credit cards. With its Greenpeace card, for instance, the bank promises to donate £15 when you open the account, plus 25p for every £1 you spend on the card and 25p for every £100 you transfer to the card.

It all sounds very nicely in tune with current concerns over climate change. But it seems unlikely that a bank would go green purely out of a shared concern for the planet. Factor in other evidence, such as recent announcements that both Virgin and Barclaycard intend to charge customers £10 and £20 respectively just for not using their credit cards and you begin to wonder – is there a catch to the banks’ swing to green?

With growing interest in green issues, banks may wish to do something environmentally ethical if only to improve their brand reputation or consumer loyalty. There is, however, undoubtedly an opportunity for banks and other institutions to make an easy profit out of this burgeoning interest in the planet’s welfare. For instance, Barclaycard’s Breathe card has a typical APR of 14.9% (reduced to 5.9% on environmentally friendly products). This rate is below market average, but still not as good as some other offers currently in the market. Barclaycard’s own Simplicity credit card, for instance, has a best-buy rate of just 6.8% and there are still many opportunities in the market for 0% balance transfers, which may prove far better value than an eco-friendly card, if you don’t pay your balance off in full every month.

You may be delighted to hear that you can now get a credit card which will make donations to charities that you care about at no cost to yourself. But you still need to carefully evaluate the different credit card options to ensure that you are getting the best deal. If your overriding concern is the environment, then you should consider whether the bank has a good track record generally on environmental and ethical issues. If not, you may wish to make your donations through another party. Alternatively, by choosing a cheap credit card deal with a different provider, you could use the savings to make donations directly to the environmental cause of your choice.

“The environment is of prime concern to many people today, so seeing financial institutions donating to green causes will please many people,” said Sophie Neary, product director at BeatThatQuote.com. “You still need to be diligent in taking on any credit card, though. You need to weigh up all the benefits against any potential costs, whether those are higher rates or hidden fees. An eco-friendly card may not be the right option for everybody.”

There is one clear positive aspect to these latest offerings though. Banks are listening to their customers like never before and while profit will always be the imperative, we consumers have never been in such a powerful position to drive the market in ways that suit our pockets, rather than the banks’.

Trends Impacting the Ethical and Sustainable Packaging Market

Bharat Book Bureau asked:

Ethical product development is now a major issue in the industry, and this trend includes the use and promotion of sustainable packaging formats. Ethical packaging is being driven by consumer environmental concern, retailer pressure and the development and promotion of manufacturer CSR. Retailers and manufacturers must be seen to be contributing to a greener and more sustainable way of life by the media, the industry and consumers alike. To remain competitive, retain consumer loyalty and be innovative, retailers and food and drinks manufacturers need to invest in ethical policies by either developing products in ethical packaging or promoting and reminding consumers to act ethically and responsibly.

Trends in Ethical and Sustainable Packaging is a new management report that examines the new innovations in ethical and sustainable packaging by category, region and material. It profiles major innovations within ethical and sustainable food and drinks packaging, including the latest packaging technologies and materials.

Discover the key trends impacting the ethical and sustainable packaging market and understand how these are changing packaging design with this new report…

This new report will enable you to

Gain insight into industry opinions on the usage and future of ethical and sustainable packaging through an exclusive survey of industry executives carried.

Create more effective competitive strategies with this reports detailed analysis of packaging technologies including recyclable, lightweight, biodegradable and packaging from natural sources. Evalualte the pro’s and con’s of these packaging innovations and decide whether these may be appropriate for your organisation.

Improve targeting and the effectiveness of your NPD strategies with this report’s analysis of Productscan data of over 6,000 ethical and sustainable packaging product launches between 2005 and 2008. Detailed analysis of leading ethical packaging types and insights into key regions and packaging materials.

Your questions answered…

To what extent should manufacturers and retailers be investing in ethical and sustainable packaging?

Which countries are driving NPD in ethical and sustainable packaging?

What are the most innovative forms of ethical packaging?

How will packaging regulation affect NPD in ethical and sustainable packaging?

How are key players, including Wal-Mart and PepsiCo investing in ethical and sustainable packaging?

What is driving the trend of ethical and sustainable packaging?

Some key findings from this report…

Packaging from natural sources is a key ethical innovation. Other leading innovations include biodegradable, lightweight and packaging made from recycled sources.

There has been an increase in the share of food and drinks launched in ethical packaging between 2004-2007. Within this share recyclable took the greatest share with 89.5% in 2007. However the largest growth was seen in biodegradable packaging and packaging made from recyclable materials.

53.5% of industry executives believe that recyclable packaging will be significantly important or the most important ethical packaging innovation over the next 5 years. 37.5% believe reduced packaging will be the most important.

Leading retailers are investing in ethical packaging initiatives. This includes Wal-Mart who has pledged to eliminate all private label packaging waste by 2010, with a look to have zero packaging waste land filled by 2025.

For more reports of your interest, please visit the following link: http://www.bharatbook.com/Market-Research/Packaging.html

Or

Contact us at:

Bharat Book Bureau

207, Hermes Atrium, Sector 11, PO Box.54, CBD Belapur, Navi Mumbai – 400 614, India.

Phone : +91 22 2757 8668 / 2757 9438

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Website : www.bharatbook.com

Do Your Products Reflect Ethical Values

Akhil Shahani asked:

You have initiated a business of your own couple of years back, and the progress is in full swing. Consumers feel the products are awesome, and you are all set to expand your reach. And why not! But, just when you think you’re ready to take the next big leap, someone asks you whether your products are ethical!

Strong business ethics always form the basis of all of your relationships, especially those with customers and employees. In the new era of business, corporate values and business ethics will always pay you back in terms of helping you achieve standards of excellence and securing a reputation for being trustworthy. Conversely, violating the ethical code can always put you on the road that you don’t wish to travel. Don’t believe us? Hold on! We’ve got a handful of examples especially for you.

Remember Anita Roddick? Okay, let us remind you of Anita Roddick’s success story. Anita Roddick, the founder of ‘The Body Shop’, the cosmetics company dedicated to producing and retailing nature-inspired beauty products, was well-known for her belief in ethical values. And this was reflected in several aspects of The Body Shop. Not only were the products organic, none of them were tested on animals, reflecting the company’s deep respect for nature and the environment. And they didn’t merely make good products – the company made sure that basic labor rights of their suppliers from third world countries were not violated. Anita developed a unique set of ethical values for The Body Shop that brought global success to a business that started with a single store. Take a leaf out of her book – for example, if you are in the food processing business make sure you don’t risk the health of your farmers.

Have you heard of green consumerism? Let me tell you a few words about green consumerism. Green consumerism refers to the growing demand for natural products, and this trend is most vibrant in the United Kingdom, and catching on in the rest of the world. Want to know the reason behind that? Don’t you admit that we should put a stop to the damage to our environment? A lot of manufactured products have an adverse environmental impact, however small. Hence, environmentalists are urging companies to look at the entire life cycle of their consumers’ purchase from a pro-environment point of- view. That’s because a consumer does not just buy a ‘product’, but also everything that goes into its making, and everything that would result from its usage. So, take a serious step and try to base your business on natural products and eco friendly practices. On a practical note, remember that your business and its ability to survive depend on how quickly you respond to the demands of consumers – and today the consumer is demanding ethical values!

Ready for some charity? It is worthwhile considering contributing a certain part of your profits to a charitable cause that you believe in. Philanthropy is undoubtedly one of the most ethical values any business could espouse. Not only does your company make a worthwhile difference to a cause, it also acquires a great deal of credibility and acceptability in the eyes of the public.

It is seen that consumers in the new era are tending towards products of socially responsible companies. Wouldn’t you like yours to be counted among them?

What is Ethical Shopping?

Davinos Greeno asked:

But you can by shopping in an Ethical way. Put simply, this is buying things that are made ethically by companies that act ethically. Buying ethically means buying a brand or from a company which doesn’t exploit labour, animals or the environment. The way in which you can act as an ‘ethical consumer’ can also take on a different form and that is avoiding products (also known as boycotting) you disapprove of such as battery eggs.

GuideMeGreen acts as a unique internet guide, showing you which brands and companies are classed as ethical. For more indepth information see the Good Shopping Guide or the Ethical Consumer magazine.

Why buy ethically?

Everyone needs to go shopping in one way or another. As an ethical consumer, every time you buy something you can make a difference by choosing an ethical product or by buying from an ethical business.

For example, when you buy from a company that doesn’t exploit its workers and provides them with decent working conditions, you are giving the company the funds to continue its ethical behaviour. At the same time, you are no longer buying from a company that exploits its labour with poor pay and often a dangerous working environment. That company then loses business, which may encourage it to change its ways and to look after its workers.

Marks and Spencers the huge retail chain in the UK recently ran an ethical products campaign and said that this was its most successful ever. Many of the big retail companies are now seeing the benefits of offering a range of ethical goods for sale including ethical trainers, ethical shoes and t-shirts.

How do I know it’s ethical?

In general consumers must have confidence that any ‘ethical’ claims that a brand may make conform to certain standards which are independently accredited. Organisations such as the Good Shopping Guide and Ethical Consumer provide an ethical analysis of everyday brands and the companies behind them. The Ethical Marketing group publishes the Good Shopping Guide, updated annually, grading hundreds of companies according to their policies on 15 ethical issues.

Working to promote ethical shopping, The Ethical Company Organisation enables consumers to easily compare the Corporate Social Responsibility records of hundreds of companies and brands.

The Ethical Company Organisation’s Research Department monitors the ethical records of hundreds of different companies across 15 criteria including environmental records, human rights, animal welfare and involvement in the arms trade. This involves working with hundreds of ethical consumers, progressive companies and NGOs on a range of research and publishing programmes.

For example, next time you are buying clothes, the good shopping guide recommends that you buy from HUG and avoid Nike.

Find Ethical products via GuideMeGreen’s ethical directory

The Great Green Clean: How to Make your Own Ethical Cleaning Products

Adam Singleton asked:

The last time you dressed in yellow rubber gloves, the most stained and ratty t-shirt you owned, and possibly a face-mask, you probably weren’t heading out to a fancy dress party, or even leaving your home at all. You were cleaning it. But why all this protective attire to combat dirt, germs and grime in the place that you are working hard to make a more liveable, safe environment?

Why are we using products that are so harmful that we require protection to use them? After all, you want to be able to eat off surfaces you have just cleaned, but the very same toxic chemicals that rid our homes of dirt and germs can also be toxic to ourselves!

What the manufacturers of harmful cleaning products don’t want you to know is that you can clean your home with far less toxic products, many of which you probably already own. Most chemicals that make you want to wear a gas mask are not surprisingly harmful for the environment, but you can achieve the same results using everyday things that do not require protective garments. Next time you clean, arm yourself with white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, a lemon or two and a splash of hydrogen peroxide and you are ready to clean your home the green way.

A green way to clean windows is by using a mixture of one part white vinegar to three parts warm water. To get a lemon scent, cut a lemon in half, squeeze the juice into a bucket and then plunk the rest into the solution and voila! Lemon scented window cleaner.

To clean kitchen counters, cutting boards or other areas where harmful bacteria may be lurking, hydrogen peroxide is a great alternative to chlorine based bleach. It can be bought at any pharmacy and does not have the harsh smell of regular bleach or ammonia. Simply make a solution with warm water and wipe. For surfaces with harsh stains, apply a thin layer of bicarbonate of soda and scrub with a moistened brush.

The next time the kitchen sink is blocked, try rapidly pouring a bucket full of recently boiled water down the drain. Just be careful of splashes! This is a great alternative to using a caustic drain clog remover and can also be used on a clogged bog!

If using ethical, environmentally friendly products is important in your life, you are a member of an increasing number of people out there and be assured, manufacturers have taken note. If you’d prefer not to make your own, there are plenty of ready made ethical products available for sale, which you can feel great about using.

An Ethical Clothing Company Story

Davinos Greeno asked:

It may sound like a talkative monkey, but Gossypium is something even stranger- a clothing company that puts farmers first.

Their name comes from the Latin for cotton, and expresses their unexpected belief that the way clothes are made is as important as how they look. All their clothes are made from 100% organic Indian cotton woven on handlooms to prevent wasting energy and the build up of cloth mountains and without the use of any GM seeds.

The cotton they use is grown by farmers supported by the Agrocel farmers centre. Based in Gujerat, Agrocel helps farmers grow their crops completely organically with technical advice, support and regular visits. The 60 farmers are paid a fair, above market price for their produce, and have a long-term sustainable relationship with the company.

Abigail Garner, a director of the company, set up the first clothing collection for Traidcraft and knew how important it was to treat not just the farmers well, but the earth too. Instead of chemical colours, Gossypium uses vegetable dyes, a time-consuming but high quality alternative. No waxes or chemical treatments are used to spin the cotton.

The clothes are stitched in India and Gossypium is working towards total transparency and independent monitoring. Thomas Petit, a company director explains that in the meantime they visit the factories themselves, We try and use the same factories as fair trade organisations use. Where this isnt possible we visit the factories ourselves?. They have also set up an education fund linked to the garments, each item stitched means more money to buy books for local schools.

Gossypium has its own fashion and print designer who adds a fresh edge to the ethical and environmentally conscious company. Their yoga collection is particularly popular because wearers know they are helping others while they reach their higher plane! The collection is already stocked in 30 shops throughout the UK. Its growing fast and is very popular, says Tom.

Their childrens clothes are perfect for sensitive babies and their sensitive parents who prefer not to wrap their offspring in chemicals, and the hardwearing material withstands the games of the most robust kids. For adults the emphasis is on simplicity and comfort, but never at the expense of fit or style. We especially like their slash neck tops and strappy vests.

Gossypium is bent on not just altering the fashion industry but turning it on its head to give power to the producers. Because of this, all profits are shared between Agrocel and the design/sales part of the company. The aim is to get as many farmers into Agrocel as possible, giving them the freedom to work without endangering themselves with pesticides and to be paid fairly for their work. The unique combination of ethics and style will ensure pretty soon everyone will be talking about Gossypium.

Turning Led into Gold: Ethics in the Jewelry Industry

Marc Choyt asked:

“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” – Joseph Stalin

“We’ve dodged the bullet,” is the consensus opinion of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, according to Frank Dallahan. “A job well done,” though, as the title of the opinion piece suggests, “The Gun Is Still Pointed at Us” by “arrogant” NGOs.

Blood Diamonds got mediocre reviews and was not widely seen and has had no real effect on diamond purchases. Sierra Leon is at peace. Kimberly is in place. Our business can return to worrying about bankruptcies, the internet, consolidations, the latest move by DeBeers.

Yet right now, there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands-the number will never be known – of American men who spent a few months of their salary to unknowingly purchase a conflict diamond. To these consumers, diamonds represent love and commitment-but to someone in Sierra Leone, they signify something altogether different.

One death can have a profound effect on a family, community or even a nation. How are we to understand 3.7 million deaths, which is what Amnesty International lists as the death toll due to wars funded by conflict diamonds? In the calculus of the human heart, such a number easily becomes an abstraction- which is why Blood Diamond was essential.

Though there has been an attempt at truth and reconciliation in Sierra Leone, little has been done to bring the victims of conflict diamonds together with the executive who ultimately purchased them. Nor has there been any widespread apology to customers. Instead, business continues, now with new ethics rules which ring shallow, to me, because there has been to real truth and reconciliation.

To the jewelry industry, the deaths of Africans have become mere statistics.

Certainly the diamond business is not the only business questionable ethics. We could have a film entitled, Blood Oil, but such a film is not needed when we have reality TV. Jewelry is different than other commodities. It is marketed as an emotional purchase, representing, often, the highest of human aspirations. This marketing is a despicable distortion when the true cost of a piece is environmental destruction and human suffering.

Many in the diamond business are Jewish, like myself. As a group, we are sensitive to history. I consider what happened in Africa as a result of conflict diamonds, a modern holocaust. Many might consider this comparison extreme, but there are numerous holocausts caused by human greed, bigotry and power. All are equally terrible.

It is undeniable that the Kimberly process is a huge step forward. If the world, because of Kimberly, could say: “NEVER AGAIN,” then at least there would be a modicum of redemption. But NGOs report conflict diamonds are still being bought and sold… though not a soul in the industry is “out of compliance.”

Our destinies, to some degree, are all interwoven in this universal human tragedy. Tribal cultures were destroyed and people were enlisted as chattel to gather commodities for European powers. This wealth was exported to build empire and many ventured forth to Africa in search of fortune.

I have a picture of my grandfather. Izzy Weinberg. Age 27. Camp’s Bay, South Africa, 1905.

Izzy is dressed formally in a black suit and vest sporting a boulder hat, sitting in a cart. Instead of a horse however, there is a black man in shirtsleeves and bare feet, as the beast of burden. Even worse than this, one detail, over a hundred years later, still fills me with horror: this black man is wearing a set of horns, tied securely under his chin.

Everyone in the jewelry industry selling diamonds, including myself, are in the cart being pulled by the black man with horns. We have all benefited by DeBeers massive diamonds are a girl’s best friend campaign, which has created the demand for diamonds, leading to these wars.

Some are in the cart comatose, pretending the blood diamond issue is gone. Others are in the cart with the reins, fighting the NGOs tooth and nail with a public relations campaign saying that blood diamonds are no longer an important issue. Let us just have business as usual because… no one is out of compliance with Kimberly.

Some have stepped in the cart without wanting to be in the cart: the unwitting customer who walked into the jewelry store some time in the nineties and with months of salary saved up to buy diamonds for their finance.

How much have things really changed over the last hundred years?

Unfortunately, we are so sophisticated now we do not see ourselves in the cart. There’s marketing, technology, supply and demand. Governments are involved. No one wants an African diamond boycott-not even Nelson Mandela. Still, it would not be difficult to conclude that some evil in our industry still views an African’s life as merely a commodity, like cattle or slaves.

My conviction is that those 3.7 million dead Africans are actually members of the lost tribe of Israel, which make them my brothers and sisters. I took care of their antecedents when I lived in Haiti-a country of former slaves. For two years, I worked as a volunteer in Mother Theresa’s clinics while running an orphanage for a charity organization funded by the international diplomatic corps.

This suffering in the developing world is not some abstraction to me. I know we are all one global community that is interdependent. The reason that Haiti is so poor is because we are so rich. This is why I advocate Fair Trade. We need an absolutely clear connection between the miner and the consumer who purchases the diamond.

By writing such things, some will accused me of “slapping the face” of the jewelry industry. Perhaps it is true, but a slap is clearly not the same as a punch or a whack. To slap, according to Webster means, “to strike with an open hand, or with something broad or flat.” A slap is usually between intimates; sometimes even lovers. My livelihood is in the jewelry industry-it provides for me, my wife and employees, so I am intimate with it.

My wife, whom I have been with for nearly twenty years, fortunately, does not slap me, though there were times, certainly, when I deserved it. We do have real conflict however, more of the H I3 variety than the D VSS variety. After the fight, or the slap, a couple has a choice. They can marginalize each other or they can make up, which begins with dialogue and ends, at best, in a more intimate engagement. Indeed, Webster’s also defines a slap as a Scottish word meaning a gap in a wall or a dike or to make such a gap.

My slap, then, can be viewed as an invitation, now that we have ‘dodged the bullet’, to take the plunge and become more introspective about our part in this story. We are witnessing the end game of a terrible cycle; the oppressed becoming oppressor. It has morphed into an often painful commercial connection between that person in Africa and those in Antwerp and Mumbai.

There is a reason that the bullet was aimed at us. We ignore or dismiss this type of bullet to our own detriment, making ourselves more vulnerable. We also miss the opportunity to turn the lead of the bullet into gold.

Just last week I had the largest sale in our companies’ history, three platinum ring wedding set, from a customer who found us on line and purchased from us specifically because of our stance issues expressed on this website. I was happy for the sale, but sorry to hear how this customer from an affluent California city could not find anyone in his area who could meet his ethical standards.

Many in our industry have been so concerned about creating “image” and “brand” that they miss what was right in front of them-the twenty percent of the popula
tion interested in socially responsible business practices.

On this blog you can read how anyone can take real steps to make changes. I urge you to join me. Educate your customers about the benefits of a fair trade, ethical jewelry market. Those who jump on this market early are going to reap potentially staggering benefits with the added bonus of using business to do good in the world.

By the way, my grandfather had no luck in South Africa. He moved to Boston. I happened upon the jewelry business by mere chance, just eleven years ago, mainly because my wife is a talented designer. If fate had been different, I might have been born into the diamond business, which is another way of saying that everything in the world is interconnected

“With a boundless heart cherish all living beings, radiating love over the world, upward to the skies, downward to the depths.” – Metta Sutta

Consumer 101 Ethical Investment

Indiann Davinos asked:

Money Makes The Arms Go Round

Do you give money to the arms trade or to industries destroying our environment? Most of us would be shocked and indignant if accused of doing this. But traditionally, when we invest we give up the right to decide where our money goes and our hard earned cash could be propping up oppressive regimes without us knowing. Ethical investment gives us the chance to control the money we invest and prove that profit and principles can work together.

Ethical investment is not a new idea. The Quakers in the 18th century used it to make a stand against the slave trade refusing to invest money in any business linked to it. More recently it was used to attack South Africa’s apartheid with the state of California withdrawing $50 billion from the country. With credentials like these it is easy to see why investment can be a powerful tool for social change.

Thinking ethically means not compromising on your values or your pocket. For example, the Ethical Investment Research Service concluded ethical funds have a lower total risk then those without ethical criteria.

There are broadly two types of ethical investing. The first is screening the companies you want to invest with to make sure their practices don’t clash with your principles. These can include bad environmental practises, the tobacco or alcohol industries, pornography, anti-trade union practises, or the arms trade. In addition to these concerns Muslims may prefer not to invest in financial institutions where there is interest-based gain. Secondly you may wish to actively channel your money to companies you approve of. These could be companies with good labour practices and safety records, organic farms or alternative energy companies, or those who benefit local communities.

An independent financial adviser will help you find companies, tailored to your specific agenda. You may, for example, want to prioritise not supporting companies who work with oppressive regimes, but mind less about investing in the tobacco industry. Or you may not mind about alcohol production but be vehemently opposed to your money funding environmentally irresponsible corporations. Whatever you decide independent financial help means you can place your money where it won’t damage your conscience.

Why not start with your bank? Smile.co.uk is the Internet bank of the co-operative bank. It not only has specific ethical and environmental policies, but also fantastic rates on current accounts. They also have a huge range of ethical investments options. Triodos bank only gives business loans to organisations involved in sustainable development projects and savers are given the option of specifically channelling their cash into their preferred sector, whether this is social housing projects or organic farming. The Ecology building society uses your money to provide mortgages for energy efficient houses, ecological renovation or for rescuing derelict properties.

International Company and Ethics

Andrew Sandon asked:

International Company and Ethics

The issue of business ethics is engaging companies more and more – both domestically and internationally. This trend is accentuated by high-profile examples of breaches of accepted standards of ethical behavior. For example, the recent Enron case where inadequate checks and balances within the firm enabled unethical behavior to occur, a development made easier by the failure of the external auditor to fulfill its role properly. Assumptions about ethics and business are influenced inevitably by fundamental beliefs about the role of business in society. On the one hand, there are those who believe that the sole social responsibility of business is to generate profit. For some proponents of this view, profit generation itself takes on a moral dimension whereas others see profits as the key to wealth generation – the main way of addressing social issues (Davies, 1997, p. 88). On the other hand, others believe that the role of business is much broader than that of profit generation and that all those who are affected by the way a company operates – shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, the local community, future generations (especially in relation to environmental issues) – have a legitimate interest and stake in the way a company conducts itself.

Many of these concerns are relevant to business whether it is domestic or international in nature. However, international business poses particular challenges and questions over and above those facing purely domestic business. In order to reconcile doing business internationally and remain ethical, the company should follow the main principles of human rights, comply with legal norms related to labor, avoid corruption and correspond to standards of environmental protection. Even though it is not easy to combine making profit and adjusting to ethical principles, sometimes failure to comply with legal norms and standards my result in negative public image for the international company and loss of customers. Therefore, international company can suffer even more damages if it decides not to follow the ethical principles.

The first issue related to ethics is human rights. It is a generally accepted principle that international company should not engage in direct infringement of human rights the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is commonly taken as the appropriate benchmark. However, some people would go further, preferring companies to refrain from doing business in countries known to infringe human rights on a systematic basis. Opponents of this view argue that if an international company abstains from conducting business in a country with an ethically dubious regime, the only concrete result is to hand over business opportunities to companies without such reservations (Barlett and Ghoshall, 1998, p. 110).

On coming to office in 1992, for example, President Clinton proposed to withdraw MFN status from China as a result of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 in which many pro-democracy demonstrators were killed (Kepstein, 2001, p. 108). Such action would have provoked retaliation against US companies operating in China and US business lobbied hard to persuade the president to change his mind. They argued that US business interests would be irrevocably damaged in a rapidly growing market and that the outcome would not be an improvement in human rights in China but a boost to the business prospects of American business rivals in China. The lobbying campaign was successful: the link between trade and human rights was broken and replaced by the doctrine that the possibility of bringing about change is greater if business and other links and contacts are maintained.

International labor issues can be linked with human rights, especially regarding matters of forced labor and child labor. Ethical labor issues also occur outside the framework of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in circumstances where certain labor practices may be legal and commonplace in the host country but do not necessarily represent fair and equitable treatment of the workforce. The issue facing an international company is: does it maximize its competitive advantage by locating in a low-cost/low-regulation country and adopt local practices or does it refrain from reaping all the labor cost benefits by adopting higher standards and more ethical practices than strict compliance with local legal norms requires? A firm may choose to take the latter path and still experience significant competitiveness gains.

Corporate codes of conduct governing general corporate behavior and treatment of the workforce in particular are not new. Their modern manifestation began in the mid-twentieth century in the form of codes from the International Chamber of Commerce and other collective codes (Donaldson, 1989, p. 55). Their popularity surged once more in the 1990s in response to pressure from NGOs, the emergence of corporate social responsibility as a key consideration for firms and the phenomenon of socially responsible investment and shareholder action. Additionally, discussion of the possible inclusion of labour regulation under the WTO umbrella encouraged international firms to assume greater responsibility for their own labor standards, if only to demonstrate that international regulation was unnecessary. Corporate codes of conduct take many forms. Many international firms have developed their own individual codes to cover their own employees and those of their contractors and suppliers. Some industries have developed their own codes. Whatever form they take, codes are necessary for the positive public image of international company and they demonstrate that the company reconciles doing business and acting ethically. Codes need to comply with a number of conditions before they can be said to operate equitably and with credibility (DeGeorge, 1993, p. 88):

1.the contents of the code must be clearly worded and, at a minimum, comply with core standards;

2.the company adopting the code must be committed to it and be prepared to provide the resources to ensure its implementation, including training, information systems for monitoring and compliance and staff to implement new procedures;

3.knowledge of the code throughout the organization is essential to its implementation: in particular, employees of the firm and its subcontractors and suppliers must know of the contents of the code and a reporting system must be established that enables workers to report infringements without fear of reprisals;

4.the code should be subject to verification by independent assessors who have access to the site unannounced at any time.

The application of such codes can enhance internal governance and facilitate internal management across geographically dispersed sites. There is some evidence to show that real commercial benefits can be gained from the proper application of fair and equitable labor standards, although more widespread research needs to be done on this (DeGeorge, 1993, p. 111). Provided the code of conduct adopted by a firm has external credibility, it can both protect and enhance a firm’s reputation, particularly important these days when more is expected of firms in terms of corporate social responsibility.

Levi Strauss is one of the world’s largest brand-name clothes manufacturers and also one of the first international companies to adopt a corporate code of conduct to apply to all contractors who manufacture and finish its products and to aid selection of which countries in which to operate (DeGeorge, 1993, p. 118). The Code of Conduct has two parts:

1.Business partner terms of engagement: Levi Strauss uses these to select business partners that follow workplace standards and pract
ices consistent with its policies and to help identify potential problems. In addition to meeting acceptable general ethical standards, complying with all legal requirements and sharing Levi Strauss’s commitment to the environment and community involvement, Levi Strauss’s business partners must adhere to the following employment guidelines:

-Wages and benefits: business partners must comply with any applicable law and the prevailing manufacturing and finishing industry practices.

-Working hours: partners must respect local legal limits on working hours and preference will be given to those who operate less than a 60-hour working week. Levi Strauss will not use partners that regularly require workers to work in excess of 60 hours. Employees should also have at least one day off per week.

-Child labor: use of child labor is not permissible in any of the facilities of the business partner. Workers must not be below 15 years of age or below the compulsory school age.

-Disciplinary practices: Levi Strauss will not use business partners who use corporal punishment or other forms of physical or mental coercion.

-Prison/forced labor: no prison or forced labor is to be used by business partners nor will Levi Strauss use or buy materials from companies using prison or forced labor.

-Freedom of association: the rights of workers to join unions and to bargain collectively must be respected.

-Discrimination: while respecting cultural differences, Levi Strauss believes workers should be employed on the basis of their ability to do their job

-Health and safety: Levi Strauss undertakes to use business partners who provide a safe and healthy working environment and, where appropriate residential facilities

2.Country assessment guidelines: these are used to address broad issues beyond the control of individual business and are intended to help Levi Strauss assess the degree to which its global reputation and success may be exposed to unreasonable risk. It was an adverse country assessment that caused Levi Strauss to cease its engagement in China in the early 1990s, largely on human rights grounds – a decision that has subsequently been reversed. In particular, the company assesses whether:

-the brand image will be adversely affected by the perception or image of a country among customers;

-the health and safety of employees and their families will be exposed to unreasonable risk;

-the human rights environment prevents the company from conducting business activities in a manner consistent with the global guidelines and other company policies;

-the legal system prevents the company from adequately protecting trademarks, investments or other commercial interests;

-the political, economic and social environment protects the company’s commercial interests and brand corporate image.

Levi Strauss is the example of the company that successfully combines doing business and following ethical practices. As we see, the company code of ethics demonstrates that Levi Strauss complies with the most labor norms and environmental standards; at the same time such actions of the company do not have any negative impact upon its business. On the contrary, since Levi Strauss has positive public image the customers should be more attracted to its products.

Some of the other important ethical issues that the company should consider is bribery and corruption. Bribery/corruption is not as clear-cut an issue as might first appear; indeed it can be rather a grey area. In some cultures, it is regarded as perfectly normal to give an official or host a gift (Asgary and Mitschow, 2002, p. 245). In others, only minimal value token gifts or no gifts at all are allowed. A problem arises when it is the norm for a contract to be signed only after the payment of a ‘commission’ to a key official or officials (Asgary and Mitschow, 2002, p. 240). Such circumstances place international companies in a difficult position: without payment of these commissions, the contract will not materialize and, if they do not make the payment, many other companies will (although that is not an ethical justification for going ahead with the commission). The position of the US is unequivocal about this: it regards all such payments as bribes and, as such, they are both unethical and illegal. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Law forbids US companies from making improper payments to foreign governments, politicians or political parties to obtain or retain business. Therefore, the only choice that American companies have regarding bribery is not to make any payments regarded as bribes; otherwise, it can be considered that a company violates the law.

The last ethical challenge that international companies face is related to environmental protection. Firms can encounter damaging publicity as a result of the environmental outcome of their activities as pollution attracts more and more media attention (Barlett and Ghoshal, 1998, p. 98). For many, environmental protection and corporate responsibility in this field has a clear ethical dimension. This debate is couched in terms of the ‘global commons’ in which all human beings have both a stake and a responsibility to ensure the well-being of the environment for future generations (Donaldson, 1989, p. 211).

In order to reconcile doing business and meeting environmental ethical standards an international company should comply with the following underlying principles in environmental policy.

The first norm refers to the “polluter pays principle.” It stipulates that polluters should pay the full cost of the environmental damage they cause (DeGeorge, 1993, p. 100). Environmental costs are often referred to as ‘externalities’ (for example, damage to health, rivers, the air, etc. arising from economic activity) that are not incorporated into the costs of a product but are borne by society as a whole (DeGeorge, 1993, p. 100). By making the polluter pay the full cost of its activities, including externalities, this principle provides an incentive to make products less polluting and/or to reduce the consumption of polluting goods. This internalization of external costs can be met through the use of market-based, policy instruments.

The other principle refers to prevention. If the company decides to follow the prevention principle it changes to products and processes to prevent environmental damage occurring rather than relying on remedial action to repair damage after it has taken place (Davies, 1997, p. 108). This implies the development of ‘clean technologies’; minimal use of natural resources; minimal releases into the atmosphere, water and soil; and maximization of the recyclability and lifespan of products.

In conclusion, international business adds an extra dimension to ethical issues within the firm. All organizations have their own culture based on common language and terminology, behavioral norms, dominant values, informality/formality, etc. This inevitably becomes more complex when an organization has a presence in more than one country. Some companies believe a strong corporate culture is a means of overcoming diverse national cultures whereas others evolve different cultures in different organizations and incorporate cultural diversity in their management strategy. Many organizations like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s do use core brands but still adapt their products for local markets and follow ethical standards, either out of necessity or to maximize returns. Ethics and corporate social responsibility are closely related. Debates about corporate social responsibility have been dominated by labor and environmental issues but a growing number of corporate governance scandals involving multinationals is increasing pressure for stricter regulation. International companies can reconcile doing business internationally and remaining ethical if they comply with labor and environmental norms enacted at the international level and establish and follow the code of ethics. In the long run, corporate co
mmitment to sound ethical principles and socially responsible behavior is good for business.

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