Aside from extreme poverty, abuse is rampant. Millions of people live and work in threateningly unsafe conditions, for long hours with no breaks. Factory ceilings collapse on a regular basis, killing thousands. In America, heatstroke affects Amazon warehouse workers causing them to drop like flies. Even in less harsh positions, employees are often discriminated against with no legal recourse. Treating humans as a commodity leads to a low quality of life, little opportunity, and growing income inequality. These problems exist in even the most developed societies today.
Transparency involves the incorporation of feedback from all stakeholders, including employees, vendors and the community at large. Information about every aspect of a corporation’s practices needs to be fully disclosed. In addition, it must be clear, accurate, and free from unethical spin.
Another part of green strategy embraces the development of employee skills. No matter the job, training can give a person greater opportunity both immediately and down the road. Having a range of talented and educated individuals will make it easier to optimize organizational strategy so that it has the best global impact.
It's up to us, the consumers, to keep companies honest and accountable. Investigating which companies are being honest, and which are only worried about public image is paramount in determining who to support. Your dollar counts, and only shopping at ethical retailers is a way for you to personally impact change. How does it matter? Here are a few ways.
- Help the environment - Don’t give known polluters an incentive to continue their harmful ways. Making money is the only reason some of these companies are in business. If they don’t hit their profit goals, they will be forced to change. Ethical companies will put a share of revenue toward rescuing endangered species, alternative energy sources, and preservation of natural resources.
- Increase health - Reduce exposure to pesticides and harmful chemicals by buying only natural products.
- Give opportunity to small farmers, agricultural workers, and micro-businesses around the world. The Fair Trade Federation requires members to support independence of producers, instead of keeping them down.
- Promote humane treatment of animals.
- Create safe working conditions.
- Benefit from higher quality items.
- Protect rural communities - If economic opportunities cease to exist in remote areas, people will be forced to live in cities just to survive. This will create a long list of new problems to tackle.
In an effort to work together, a few common ideas seem to be gaining traction.
- Expectations for most companies to report on greenhouse gas and water waste reduction efforts. A larger conversation is being had about how to handle natural resource shortages. Talking about this has gone on long enough, and we are ready for some answers. It is time for feet to be held to the fire.
- Involvement of Chief Financial Officers to take responsibility for giving back, instead of just taking.
- Highlighting the value of employee well-being, with consequences for disregard.
- Universal rating and ranking systems. Let everyone see how bad these corporations are.
Companies Who Care
This Italian company plants a tree for every watch they sell. To date, they have placed over 400,000 trees in reforestation projects worldwide. By 2020, their goal is to be one million saplings deep. A high level of mindfulness goes into their product as well. Most timepieces are crafted from recycled scrap wood.
In 2015, BMW made strides in using more renewable energy during production. They increased the diversity of their global workforce and reduced CO2 emissions by 50%.
The German apparel giant has been working with the UN to hold manufacturing partners to the highest human rights standards. They have been minimizing paper use through consolidating designs for hang tags and other packaging. Adidas prints using soy and water-based inks, and makes boxes out of 100% recycled cardboard.
France’s beloved cosmetic company has made a commitment against testing products or ingredients on animals. They are working to reduce the wage gap between men and women while pursuing a goal of a 60% environmental footprint by 2020.
H&M is the first fashion company to launch a global garment collection initiative. Customers can donate used clothing to be recycled and made into new textiles. At the same time, they are pioneering a fair living wage for industry workers. Their partnership with the World Wildlife Foundation has launched an initiative for water conservation.
It is not unheard of for sustainability unfriendly companies to construct press stories to make themselves look like they’re part of the green initiative. The term greenwashing can mean lying about a company’s sustainable practices or products. There are too many offenders to name, but some recent examples are especially provocative.
This well-known car manufacturer has received past recognition for sustainability efforts. Unfortunately, it was all a ruse. They are accused of developing software to fool emissions tests by giving false readings...