Consumer power is not about encouraging mindless consumption. But about using our power (when able) to make choices that affect how the world is run. If everyone continues to buy food from McDonalds and big supermarkets, energy from big polluting companies and newspapers/magazines from big media moguls, nothing much is going to change.
Consumers (and that includes businesses that buy wholesale and charities that need to buy provisions too) are paying more attention than ever, to how their goods are made. From ethical investment to boycotting partnerships with the big companies that often cause the damage (think cancer-causing beauty brands funding pink ribbon campaigns), this book shares the positive change you can create – often by simply doing nothing.
Not all factories are evil, some create fairly paid jobs in poor communities. And we all need to buy food, pet food, clothes, winter coats, vegan shoes, heating, white goods, cars (sometimes) and more. Find stories of how former victims of human trafficking and natural disasters, have been empowered by those who do ‘good economics’ in the capitalist world. From recycled jewellery to sustainable coffee and Fair Trade cocoa beans, this is where you can make a difference.
why do some companies sell out?
This can be a real bugbear. Do you support unethical companies that are making progress, or boycott them entirely? It’s up to you. If they sell more of the good stuff, they may produce less of the bad stuff, and they have bigger markets, so create more change. But then you don’t want your money to go to companies that harm the planet and animals.
Oatly is one of the world’s most successful oat milk companies. Based in Sweden, it has removed palm oil from its oat cream, sells to baristas (a market worth millions – they love the foaming oat milk for cappuccinos) and the founder managed to not pay millions in advertising, when the Swedish Dairy Board criticised his ad (playing piano and singing badly in a field) claiming that his milk was ‘like milk, but for humans’. The criticism went viral, and it caused so many sales, he said he wished he had done the ad sooner.
However, recently Oatly sold out to a company with a poor environmental record and links to Trump. One former customer says they won’t buy their products now, ‘just so I can have a creamy coffee in the morning’. Oatly’s response is ‘if we just shut out the companies that make less sustainable choices, we won’t give them the chance to improve’. What do you think? One solution is to work with companies that support cattle farmers transitioning over to grow oats for milk (leaving existing cows to live out their lives in peace, akin to a farm sanctuary). This also helps farmers who are struggling in a plant-based world. Other companies that have been praised/criticised (depending on your view) are:
- Beyond Meat, which sells its vegan chicken to KFC’s ‘green bucket of chicken’ with billions of customers
- Pukka Teas that sold out to Unilever, one of the world’s most unethical and boycotted companies.
- The Body Shop sold out to L’Oreal when it was still testing on animals (although banned in Europe, it’s not that ethical a company elsewhere, and continued to sell its animal-tested cosmetics to China). The Body Shop is now back to being independent, but has upped its prices, so most people can’t afford their products anyway.
- Ecover & Method (UK cleaning and laundry brands) are now both owned by a big animal-testing corporate. Do yourself a favour and head to the local health store to buy truly ethical brands.
- Alpro (milk, yoghurt, desserts) is owned by Danone – boycotted (along with Nestle) for marketing baby formula to developing countries.
- Although the updated plant-based cookbook is fab, Linda McCartney commercial foods are owned by a factory-farmed food company.
- Green & Black chocolate is owned by the company that used to be called Cadbury. So although its own chocolate is vegan or Fair Trade organic, the company that owns it is not. Mondelez has Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for ethical sourcing of cocoa.
- KVD Beauty is vegan, but owned by Louis Vutton that makes items from leather, silk and fur. An investigation found crocodiles were kept on cruel farms in Vietnam, to be slaughtered for skins.
- Innocent Smoothies is owned by Coca-Cola (boycotted by many, due to funding cruel US rodeos).