We have all heard the ethical buzz-words that get thrown around; sustainably sourced, ethically made, fair trade, vegan, organic, zero-waste, cruelty-free. But what do they REALLY mean and which ones should we focus on?
We will be taking a deep dive into ethical issues facing businesses in today’s world, and how your purchases create a silent vote toward your own ethical standpoint.
Ethical factors affecting businesses can involve all the processes and actions which influence managers and employees’ behaviours inside the company as well as external influences like the outside environment, its customers, business partners and also its competitors. Each business inherently chooses an ethical standpoint with each of their choices around moral beliefs, norms and values. These ethical factors are very wide and diverse covering all the often hotly contested and debated topics, from truthful marketing, accurate business communication to employees, shareholders and customers, religious and social values, industry regulations, workplace conditions, responsibility around waste production, human rights, discrimination and sourcing sustainable ingredients or raw product, just to name a few.
Obviously, these are no small issues, each topic can be unpacked in a dozen different ways, opening up new complexities and creating a multitude of concerns to work through. But in this world of confusing terminology and gimmicky catch phrases its time we start learning the lino, so let’s take a look at some of the most popular terms;
Sustainably-sourced: A product made using resources or ingredients that do not harm or deplete the natural resources, therefore supporting long-term ecological balance.
Ethically made: This is a broad one often encompassing a product that is ethically produced in a way that is kind towards the environment, to animals and abides by fair working conditions for all employees.
Fair-trade: For products that are made or produced in a developing country, fair-trade means that workers are paid a moderate price and treated fairly by the company in operation in the developing country. It is often based upon a partnership with the local producers as a solution to fight poverty, striving for better treatment of workers rather than exploitation.
Vegan: A product that does not use any animal products or bi-products in its production process or ingredient list. These products support a lifestyle with specific ethical and political beliefs encouraging people to avoid buying, wearing, eating or using animal products of any kind.
Organic: A product often food based or made from raw natural materials that is produced to the highest standards without chemical fertilisers, pesticides or any other artificial chemicals. It also represents the highest standards of animal welfare and no genetically modified ingredients.
Zero-waste: This means for the consumer there isn’t any waste when purchasing this product. No rubbish that will need to be disposed of in landfill. It supports a lifestyle that encourages the reduce, reuse, recycle principle.
Cruelty-free: Manufacturing or productions with methods which do not involve cruelty to animals.
AMO vs Foreign Products
For many of us these all seem like very reasonable attributes to have within a product and I am sure many attributes that you would like to see with every purchase you make. However, there is varying degrees of legitimacy with each of these labels, and unfortunately some are quite literally just marketing ploys, with very little official certification or recognised compliance. Lucky for those of us sourcing products with the distinct green and gold kangaroo, Australian made and owned manufacturers and producers are held far more liable for these wild claims they put on their products.
Under the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) Australian businesses must, by law, deliver accurate and truthful messages. Whether it’s through advertising, packaging, online, logos, endorsements or a sales pitch they cannot imply false or misleading statements. Not all countries have such stringent regulations but for products manufactured and produced in Australia we can all breathe a sigh of relief, to know there is no funny business going on here.
So what does ‘Organic’ in Australia really look like?
To take a look at one such label, the label of ‘organic’, here in Australia this certification can take up to two years to achieve with subsequent inspections at least once a year to ensure the required organic farming and manufacturing processes are upheld to a satisfactory standard.
And what about ‘Fair Trade’?
As for the fair-trade label this is a label with a immense complexities, and one that has come under continuous scrutiny. Despite the advances in modern technology, the innovation in operating procedures and the undeniable recognition of improved ethical working standards there is still a startling number of cases of unacceptable working conditions for many manufacturing employees in foreign countries. For many of us it is almost impossible to imagine cramped, dark, dank, poorly ventilated working spaces. A workplace without safety protocols, no regulations, no restrictions, and a strong push for cheap labour from children and severely underpaid female workers. A place where you run the risk of repetitive trauma from machinery, toxicity from exposure to heavy metals, dust and solvents and working hours and hours without even morning smoko or lunch for that matter! And under the authority of different countries working policies, or lack thereof, it can be increasingly difficult for global brands to source legitimate fair-trade manufacturing.
This is why once again seeking out that famous green and gold kangaroo is imperative in knowing that the produce was made under strict workplace regulations, so you can be sure that every product manufactured in Australia in made under some of the most ethically advanced working standards in the world.
Whilst these ethical buzz-words often feel like marketing fads, they really are more than that. They are the way we as consumers can make our voices heard as to what we see as socially acceptable. With every purchase signifying a vote toward ethical standards that we value and hold dear. Hopefully one day these ethical buzz words won’t just be marketing jargon because ALL products will be ethical without having to even being asked.