Over the past few months, a few Not For Sale Georgia friends and I have been working on an ethical buying guide called Purchase With Purpose. It’s definitely been a labor of love—a three-month labor that felt like the full nine! It started earlier this year when I learned more about the problem with child labor in the chocolate industry. I then wanted to make sure I was purchasing chocolate that was free of slave labor. From there, I wanted to expand into other areas of my life. I felt convicted to make sure that as many of my buying choices as possible reflect my values and concern for modern-day slavery. This trek wasn’t new to me as I had previously worked in the environmental sector, and had already made “green” a priority. Luckily for me, these worlds overlap in many ways.
But then I began to think about my friends and family. I wanted to help them make better choices. Even though this cause wasn’t theirs, I know many people who would do good by making safe buying choices; they just needed to be educated to do so. Think about it for a moment. If there were two pair of jeans, about the same price, style and quality, but one had a safe supply chain one was questionable, which would you buy? Many people I know would by the ones from a company who was doing good things. It’s the reason we all own TOMS shoes. You buy them not just because their cute, but a child in need receives a pair of shoes. Easy decision. I own four pairs!
I then approached my Not For Sale state directors about the idea. What if we created a buying guide that gave people a list of companies with safe supply chains? (A safe supply chain simply means that the items you buy were made without slave labor. From the raw materials to the finished product, all workers were treated fairly, paid a livable wage, and not forced or coerced to perform their job. Sadly, with over 30 million slaves around the world living today, you may find yourself surprised to know the reality of how your chocolate, clothes, soap, lamps, toys, electronics and anything in-between came to be.) And to build on that idea, what if we focused our fall quarterly meeting around the idea of buying ethically for the holidays?
They were both on board, and the project was given the green light. I’d seen some other buying guides, so this wasn’t a revolutionary idea. However, I wanted to help create one that 1) didn’t focus a lot on niche brands which most people didn’t know and didn’t have much access to, and 2) included local businesses. I wanted to make it approachable for the everyday consumer. And I wanted to reward and recognize local businesses who were going good.
A few others jumped in to help, and we began in late August. It’s been a wild and crazy couple of months. We unofficially debuted the guide at Not For Sale’s annual conference, the Global Forum, a few weeks ago. This was particularly exciting because the NFS main office became interested in what we were doing, and also very supportive. In fact, Emily, my partner on the project, and I were asked to speak at the event on our guide and how consumers can become more engaged in the issue. Our little audience responded well to what we had to say, and many gave us their email addresses to receive a final copy of the guide! That was definitely a highlight for me, as it was exciting to share all this research we’d been doing. And I wanted people to understand that, in reality, this wasn’t that hard. Since then, we’ve been invited into Not For Sale’s conversations on supply chains. They have an excellent resource called Free2Work that I recommend if you want to learn more about forced labor and safe supply chains. They are able to do much more extensive research than us, and always adding to their list of reviewed companies. Additionally, F2W just released a report this week on ratings in the apparel industry. It’s good stuff. We are really thrilled to be a part of this conversation with them.
However, tonight was our big night! This is the night we’ve been counting down to. We officially debuted the Purchase With Purpose guide tonight at our NFS GA quarterly meeting! It seemed to be a big hit, and if it helps people buy better, then it’s done it’s job. All I wanted in the beginning was a tool to help the people I know buy better. I wanted my dollars to make sense. And I am proud to say I’ve done that.
Along with the guide announcement, Emily conducted a panel featuring speakers from several ethical companies: Foojee, Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Co., Noonday Collection, Socialvest, Ten Thousand Villages and The Learning Tea. These folks were great! They educated and inspired the audience, and I truly believe they helped change some buying habits tonight. It was fantastic company to be in.
I’ve gotta say, I am still kind of amazed at how much this project has grown. I was hoping for the guide to 100 companies—we ended up with 250+ local, regional, national and international brands. And we still have plans to expand it. There are talks about making it an e-book or a website. Someone at the Global Forum even asked us if we were going to start writing or petitioning legislation on the matter! At this point, though, who knows. I just want it to be a resource for people like me, people who want to do good in the world. I think there are a lot of us out there. In fact, I think it’s the future of business. If you look closely, you are seeing it all around. As I saw with the eco-friendly movement, I believe supply chains are the next big issue in retail. More and more people care about what corporations do with their dollars. They want to support companies who have heart. They want to be a part of something that matters. And if they can do that by buying better toothpaste, then why not?
Start small. Start somewhere. Start today. Purchase with purpose.
To grab your own FREE copy of the guide, visit http://bit.ly/purchasewithpurpose. You can view and download it from there.
And if you’d like to connect with Not For Sale Georgia, text “NFSGA” to 50500.