WEEKLY Q: Ethical big business?
My good friend Siel at GreenLAGirl has posted a brief note about the Guardian's continued analysis of the L'Oreal / Bodyshop marriage. Turns out that as The Bodyshop owned part of the Day Chocolate company which produce the Divine Fairtrade Chocolate brand & the Dubble brand (the official Comic Relief bar) it now seems that Nestle therefore have partial ownership via L'Oreal.
Hell of a dilemma eh? Some talking points and thoughts for you.
Can a company like Nestle buy an ethical brand and still expect ethical consumers to consider it ethical?
Can we calculate the net result of helping farmers and encouraging ethical practice in global corporations versus the negative and unethical practices normally pursued by the company?
If we all start boycotting acquired ethical brands ie The Bodyshop, Green&Blacks, Divine, Tom's of Maine etc won't that do more harm than good in the long run?
Surely if a boycott occurs then unless the mainstream pick up the slack the farmers benefiting from the Fairtrade arrangement will pay the heaviest relative price?
Why do we support Fairtrade? Ethical consumerism as mainstream reality or to punish unethical companies and reward ethical companies?
Have Nestle cornered us ethical shoppers by giving us the following choice: either we punish Nestle by withdrawing support for its Fairtrade brands ergo also punishing those Fairtrade brands and the Fairtrade farmers where appropriate or we continue to support those brands regardless of who owns them and continue to support the farmers?
What is more important? The effect of Fairtrade i.e. helping farmers or the principle of not supporting unethical companies?
Isn't this actually a victory for ethical consumers? Haven't we actually forced Nestle to change as they have now gained ownership of ethical brands that they cannot manage to profitability (continued or otherwise) without maintaining the ethical standards those brands were built on?
Whose behaviour has changed: Ours or Nestle's?
I support Fairtrade to support Third World Farmers. The end result is the key for me. So Nestle owning these brands, albeit partially, poses no moral problem for me as I do not care who profits from ethical consumerism as long as more farmers benefit.
I might even go as far as to argue that getting mainstream businesses to make money from ethical business is a crucial step to mainstreaming a greener fairer life.
Don't get me wrong though. Given the choice between Nestle and an independent ethical brand I will continue to choose the latter. But the mainstream marketing done on behalf of Fairtrade by mainstream companies helps to further penetrate ethical consumerism into mainstream society. Which is all a good result for the farmers and this is all about them right?
L'Oreal buying The Bodyshop and the subsequent Nestle ripples can only be seen as a victory for ethical consumerism. We are seeing more companies trade ethically and/or acquire ethical brands and in my book that gets us closer to our goal. Which is to protect more Third World farmers from the iniquities of the global economic system. Job done!