Consumers hold power to make a real difference

27 Feb 19

Our choices as consumers can make a positive impact on the environment writes Community Sector Banking CEO Andrew Cairns.

If more people around the globe chose to spend at least some of their income buying goods and services from for-good businesses, it could make a big impact, writes Andrew Cairns, CEO of Community Sector Banking.

With the festive period just behind us and Valentine’s Day around the corner, it begs the question – what difference could we make this year if we made the effort to seek out ethically-sourced, locally-made, and less environmentally damaging presents?

With nearly 8 billion people around the globe, if the majority – or even a sizeable proportion – chose to spend at least some of their income buying goods and services from for-good businesses that have a positive influence, what a big impact that would be.

This can mean choosing to buy a product or service that is local or it could be gifting experiences, such as tickets to a show, rather than a physical item that could quite possibly end up discarded in landfill with the 20 million tonnes of rubbish already dumped in Australia annually.

It could be purchasing from a charity. Or deliberately selecting items that carry the Fairtrade logo. The blue and green trust consumer mark shows goods have been ethically sourced. Buying Fairtrade contributes to stable prices and decent working conditions that help to empower farmers and workers.

Then there are good environmental choices. Selecting items that are sustainably made and packaged strengthens companies that are making an effort to do the right thing. The packaging could be compostable or made from easily recycled materials such as paper, aluminium, steel and glass.

Seeking goods containing recycled materials will contribute to building a vital market for Australia’s growing mountain of waste products.

A major challenge for the recycling industry is finding channels to sell the materials that enter the system via domestic and commercial disposal. This is such an issue that the industry is urging “unless you’re buying recycled, you’re not really recycling!”

In Australia we can also help to provide economic development for our first people by sourcing products and services from Indigenous companies.

If you’re worried about corporate behaviour, taking time to select products and services from positive enterprises including local manufacturers and businesses certified as Fair Trade, B Corp or Supply Nation businesses is one of the most impactful ways you can voice your concern.

If a company is B Corp certified, it has met a globally recognised standard and uses business as a force for good. Certified businesses in Australia make everything from ice-cream to beer.

Looking long-term, where you choose to invest your super, who you decide to bank with and whether you buy your clothes from manufacturers with a good track record for employee conditions and safety are all consumer choices that you can make.

Many people have downtime over summer, which can provide an excellent opportunity to review your finances and shop around for a better deal. If you are doing that, it is also an opportune time to review whether the areas that you invest in and the businesses you deal with are having a positive impact on the world.

It’s not always easy and can sometimes require a little more work. But consumers have power.

We should never feel too insignificant to make a difference. You can and should use your wallet consciously.

This article was originally published in Pro Bono Australia.

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