Not every person has the means to live an entirely subsistence lifestyle. It is possible, however, to shop responsibly.
Ellis Jones, a professor of sociology at Holy Cross College and co-author of The Better World Handbook, has compiled an easy-to-read guide to shopping for economic sustainability. The book is based on the idea that every dollar a person spends is a vote. The most popular brands survive and continue producing; the opposite, of course, is also true. It’s the idea of supply and demand, and it’s a matter of survival of the fittest.
The Better World Shopping Guide (now in its third edition, published in 2010) evaluates over 1500 companies and gives each one a letter grade based on how well the company performs when it comes to environmental sustainability, human rights, community involvement, animal protection, and social justice. Those companies that reach A+ status are those that work primarily for the purpose of human rights and sustainability. They are considered “Corporate Heroes.” Those companies that have been given an F are considered “Corporate Villains.”
As consumers, no one has a vote on who becomes the next most powerful CEO – not in any sort of official meeting sort of way. But all consumers, all buyers do have one thing in common, one thing that does have the power to decide what company becomes the most powerful, and that is money. “Money is power,” writes Jones. “We don’t vote for CEO’s or their policies, yet our destinies are increasingly in their hands” (Jones 4). With every dollar a person spends, he or she decides what is most important. Quantity? Image? Following the bandwagon? Or is it quality and sustainability? Fair trade? Human rights?
“It’s an easy thing for me not to hurt a person, you know, when the results are right in front of me,” says one reader, a teacher in Alaska. “But it’s not as easy to think about the ripple effect of what my dollars are capable of.” Reluctantly, she avoids buying the brand of candy she would normally eat and buys instead a brand that earned a higher grade.
The book is organized by product type, from best and worst banks to best and worst cereals, and under each section the companies are listed next to their appropriate grades. The book also includes company profiles and a bibliography listing all of Jones’s resources. As an added bonus, the book is small and can easily be toted on any shopping trip. For more information, look online at www.betterworldshopper.com.