It can be overwhelming when we first become aware of the social and environmental costs of so many of the products that we buy. In Whole Foods recently, I picked up box after box in the tea section hunting for Fair Trade labels, and was disappointed at how few I found. I used to think that buying Fair Trade was simply a nice thing to do to help farmers, but now I know that brands without the Fair Trade label may have cruelty embedded in their supply chain. Not only does buying Fair Trade help those who produce the goods we consume, it also eliminates the possibility that our dollars may be supporting inhumane practices. I learned recently from one of the authors below, Dr. Ellis Jones, that buying Fair Trade is actually one of the most direct ways to contribute to a kinder more sustainable world. Our dollars can make a big difference.
In this section, I would like to share some of my favorite guides that help us support Fair Trade and ethical practices with our everyday purchases. For starters, the Better World Shopper has a great list of tea companies on page 158! I highlight sites that provide information on a wide range of products that many people buy often.
“Better World Shopper is a site dedicated to providing people with a comprehensive, up-to-date, reliable account of the social and environmental responsibility of every company on the planet AND making it available in practical forms that individuals can use in their everyday lives.” The Better World Shopping Guide is a pocket-sized guide we can carry with us or if you prefer Dr. Ellis Jones has also created a convenient Better World Shopper app for our phones.
“Free2Work provides consumers with information on forced and child labor for the brands and products they love.”
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes guides by category with an emphasis on environmental / ecological sustainability, ranging from cosmetics to GMO-free foods.
The Good Guide provides science-based product reviews for over 250,000 products in personal care, food, household, babies and kids, and more. Note that The Good Guide contradicts with the Better World Shopper in some areas, so you may wish to choose the guide with which you feel most aligned. The Good Guide is more focused on environmental concerns. The Better World shopper evaluates the environmental standards and the ethical practices of a company. If you look up a company in The Good Guide it may get a higher rating than the Better World Shopper due to this different focus.
“The B Corp Best for the World List recognizes those companies creating the most impact for a better world. They set the gold standard for high impact companies and offer a positive vision of a better way to do business. Honorees are recognized for overall, environmental, community and worker impact for earning a score in the top 10% on the B Impact Assessment.” This site is a good place to start when you’re ready to dive into the topic of ethical investing.
First incorporated as Co-op America in 1982 to help green consumers vote with their dollars, Green America publishes the National Green Pages, the only national directory of businesses screened for social and environmental responsibility. They also publish highly-informative guides to Fair Trade, Community Investing, Socially-Responsible Investing, Ending Sweatshops, and Responsible Retirement.
Positive Alternatives is on guide offered on a site called Global Exchange, a respected environmental and social justice organization. Global Exchange campaigns for an ethical economy, with a focus on the topics of Fair Trade and the local green economy movement.
“Ecolabel Index is the largest global directory of ecolabels, currently tracking 463 ecolabels in 199 countries, and 25 industry sectors. The guide is targeted primarily to marketing and manufacturing professionals, it is also useful to consumers who wish to find out which eco-labels apply by product category and / or country.
NOTE Text in quotation marks is taken directly from the website described