On the Verge of Revolution…

This is not about Syria, or Egypt, or the European Union, or any other countries experiencing unrest due to political and economic issues.  I expect this revolution is occurring in the United States of America (U.S.).  And I think the upcoming Millennial Generation (a.k.a. Generation Y) will provide the innovation needed for this revolution to prosper.

Unfortunately, the fractionated nature of the Occupy Wall Street protests (OWS), prevented the protests from initiating real change.  OWS’s general complaint is that a small group of the population (the 1%) controls and benefits from the current capitalistic social model.   Before we get into the details of this problem, let’s go back to the Millennials.   Full disclosure: although I am at the cusp of the divide between generations X and Y, I consider myself part of gen X based on the characteristic descriptions and the typical  calendar cut-offs.

Although each generation complains about the group that follows, stereotyping the group based on their phase of life instead of their unique traits.  We all develop and grow with life experience, and so looking at the generations that follows, it’s natural to view the less experienced generation as self-centered.  But when you really look at the Millennial generation, they are already doing profound things.  The second TED Talk featured in this NPR program describes how young people are having a significant impact and are already getting involved with important issues.  It appears the supposed narcissistic generation which only does something for instant gratification, is having to deal with some pretty tough circumstances and is using their confidence to do work beyond themselves.   I see significant social benefits to the Millennial Generation.

The expanding economic gap between the 1% and the 99% is blamed for just about every problem we can think of in the US.  From low wage jobs, to the increasing cost of everything.  I say this is a consequences of capitalism (RSA Video); capitalism incentivizes people to do more for less, improve efficiency, to cheat and manipulate for profits.   The priority to succeed financially has gone awry, and in the process our value on money has defined our self worth.  Generation Y is trying to determine how to reward doing the right thing, helping others, treating your employees well, building stronger and better communities.  We know the answer, but the current economics and definitions of success have yet to incentivize the social good we now value.

doing-good-for-businessBusiness is slow to change, but some companies are finding new models to motivate their staff and still improve profits.  Going green has been good for business lately; as is developing sustainability, providing human rights to factory workers, etc.  Right now you can find out the business practices for some companies and products, check out the Good Guide website or phone app.  Eventually, doing the right thing will have a higher priority than profits benefiting the 1%.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the next business model.

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All the Pretty Logos – What do they ACTUALLY mean?

There are so many marketing terms on food and beauty products, suggesting those products are better for the environment and/or better for society.  Some of the terms and labels are regulated to verify that the company follows the ethical practices.  But some terms are not regulated at all, and we may not meet our expectations for these terms.  The terms “Fair Trade” and “Ethical Trade” are certified from different groups that have different requirements.  “All Natural,” “Green, ” and “Environmentally Friendly” mean not be what you expect.  The concern is where advertising is misleading and unethical practices continue without reform.  Some companies claim to be socially responsible, but they continue to source materials from unethical producers.  If the company is not willing to submit for certification of defined practices, how can we trust their claims of socially responsible.

Environmental

The Eco Trade Logo is certified by a North American group and their standards can be reviewed here, and in general certifies that production addresses multiple environmental attributes throughout the entire life cycle of the product or service.  The terms “Green,” “Natural,” and “Environmentally Friendly” are not regulated and do not provide a similar assurance of ethical practices.

Human Rights

Here is a simple definition of commonly used terms:

  • Fair Trade – greater equity in international trade by offering better trading conditions and securing rights for marginalized producers and workers.
  • Ethical Trading – fair labor and socially responsible practices reaching throughout supply chain.
  • Social Responsibility – being accountable for actions and decisions on others and the natural environment.
  • Sustainable Consumption – making and/or using a product with concern about environmental impact.

The FLO International Fairtrade certification system covers a growing range of products, including bananas, honey, oranges, cocoa, coffee, shortbread, cotton, dried and fresh fruits and vegetables, juices, nuts and oil seeds, quinoa, rice, spices, sugar, tea and wine.  The Fair Trade Certified Mark is regulated by Fair Trade USA. It appears on products as an independent guarantee that disadvantaged producers in the developing world are getting a better deal.

The Ethical Trade Initiative (UK based) has a list of member companies but does not have a logo for certified companies.  One of my favorite brands of tea includes a logo and the term “Ethical Trade” but is not included on the member list.  This term is not regulated or certified in the US, so it will take more research for me to verify the claims by this tea company.

Socially Responsible does not currently have a certification.  ISO 26000 or simply ISO SR was just released by the International Standardization Organization and only offers guidance, not requirements.

Social Accountability is regulated by Social Accountability International 8000 SA8000 which defines the set of principles to meet certification.

Animal Cruelty

  • Leaping Bunny has a voluntary pledge from product manufacturers.  The company is suppose to open up their product line for independent audit.  You can search their list of products.
  • Or check out GEARI – Group for the Education of Animal-Related Issues for a list of Companies that do not Test on Animals

Food

Whole Wheat does not mean that it’s whole grain, you have to check the package listing of ingredients.  Multi-grain can also be misleading.  All (wheat) flour comes from wheat, it’ just has been stripped of the most nutritious part of the wheat kernel.  Some prepared foods use a little bit of whole grain in the ingredients, but still have more bleached flour in the recipe.  You have to look for 100% whole grain to get the most healthy version.  This is why people sometimes add wheat germ to a recipe.  Sometimes they use unbleached flour to make it look healthier, but the flour is otherwise the same as white flour.

 

 

Deceiving or Unverified Logos:

   

Unfortunately there is a delay in the governmental requirement for sunscreen to have clear language so that consumers can understand what they are purchasing.  Maybe by next summer?

How to Verify this information:

Other Blog Posts on this subject:

Check out Good Guide for an evaluation of health, environment, and social impacts for a particular product.

Hidden Chemicals all Around Us, and Hidden Health Effects

On Point had a good discussion this week about hidden toxins and carcinogenic chemicals in everyday products we use.  The Silent Spring Institute published results from a study looking at the frequency of potentially harmful chemicals hidden in soap, deodorant, cleanings products, even products labeled as “Green”.  Surprisingly companies can sell many products before proving they are safe, or proving their claim of health benefits.

I have previously written about the challenges with trusting “Green” or “Natural” products because these terms are not regulated, so manufacturers can add them to any product.  I also have a page collecting the things we naturally trust but shouldn’t.  There is little regulation on the ingredients of beauty products, so don’t believe the FDA is checking these products for safety.

Some studies show a higher rate of breast cancer in the more affluent communities (due to environmental impacts of dry cleaning, lawn service, pesticides, fancy beauty products).  We all should be aware of these health effects.  So why do we spend so much money on researching cures for cancers but we do not eliminate the risks around us (little cost to implement)?  Because we are unaware of the risks.  Sure, these products are very convenient, but if we know the risk we might take the time to purchase better products and maybe even make our own cleaners.  So how do we do that:

What does “Fair Trade” mean?

There are so many marketing terms on food and beauty products, suggesting those products are better for the environment and/or better for society.  Some of the terms and labels are regulated to verify that the company follows the ethical practices.  But some terms are not regulated at all, and we may not meet our expectations for these terms.  The terms “Fair Trade” and “Ethical Trade” are certified from different groups that have different requirements.  “All Natural,” “Green, ” and “Environmentally Friendly” mean not be what you expect.  The concern is where advertising is misleading and unethical practices continue without reform.  Some companies claim to be socially responsible, but they continue to source materials from unethical producers.  If the company is not willing to submit for certification of defined practices, how can we trust their claims of socially responsible.

Here is a simple definition of commonly used terms:

  • Fair Trade – greater equity in international trade by offering better trading conditions and securing rights for marginalized producers and workers.
  • Ethical Trading – fair labor and socially responsible practices reaching throughout supply chain.
  • Social Responsibility – being accountable for actions and decisions on others and the natural environment.
  • Sustainable Consumption – making and/or using a product with concern about environmental impact.

The FLO International Fairtrade certification system covers a growing range of products, including bananas, honey, oranges, cocoa, coffee, shortbread, cotton, dried and fresh fruits and vegetables, juices, nuts and oil seeds, quinoa, rice, spices, sugar, tea and wine.  The Fair Trade Certified Mark is regulated by Fair Trade USA. It appears on products as an independent guarantee that disadvantaged producers in the developing world are getting a better deal.

The Ethical Trade Initiative (UK based) has a list of member companies but does not have a logo for certified companies.  One of my favorite brands of tea includes a logo and the term “Ethical Trade” but is not included on the member list.  This term is not regulated or certified in the US, so it will take more research for me to verify the claims by this tea company.

The Eco Trade Logo is certified by a North American group and their standards can be reviewed here, and in general certifies that production addresses multiple environmental attributes throughout the entire life cycle of the product or service.  The terms “Green,” “Natural,” and “Environmentally Friendly” are not regulated and do not provide a similar assurance of ethical practices.

Socially Responsible does not currently have a certification.  ISO 26000 or simply ISO SR was just released by the International Standardization Organization and only offers guidance, not requirements.

Social Accountability is regulated by Social Accountability International 8000 SA8000 which defines the set of principles to meet certification.

How to Verify this information:

Other Blog Posts on this subject:

Check out Good Guide for an evaluation of health, environment, and social impacts for a particular product.