We pay more for products that treat animals and the environment well. How about we do the same for people?
I’ll admit it. I’m one of the hypocrites I’m not happy with. I like the idea of locally grown produce, fair trade goods, and free range anything. I also happily pay more for them. Buying them makes me feel better about myself, that I’m part of the solution. When I see a logo on a product I’m buying that lets me know I’m being a good global citizen, ten times out of ten, I go for it.
So why is it I throw all that out the window when I buy an iPad?
The answer to the question isn’t simple. Part of it is my own selfishness. When I buy an iPad, or a flat screen TV, I only care that it’s awesome and that I get a good deal. There’s nothing virtuous at play here. It’s just vanity and hedonism. While Apple is currently the poster child for labor abuse, they’re not alone. It wasn’t that long ago we were demonizing Nike.
So it got me thinking that maybe this is as much a marketing problem as it is an ethical one. What if there was some kind of badge that let us know when we’re buying a product that was made by workers who were treated fairly? It’s worked for coffee growers, chickens, and the rainforest, why not people?
Yes, I know a logo is not the answer, but I did one anyway to make my point. It helps bring the cause to life in a simple, iconic way. (RED) has done an amazing job raising awareness with smart graphics and inspired marketing.
We all know about what’s happening with Apple. The beginning of 2012 has seen extremely unfavorable coverage of what’s going on at Apple’s supplier factories in China:
January 6, 2012: “This American Life” airs “Mr. Daisey and the Apple factory”, and expose on inhumane conditions at Foxconn, the gigantic factory in China that makes Apple products.
January 13, 2012: Apple announces that it has joined the Fair Labor Association, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights and living conditions of factory workers around the world as a “participating member”
Tim Cook also sent out a email to all Apple employees announcing the FLA membership, and talks about Apple’s commitment to creating better conditions in it’s factories.
January 25, 2012: The New York Times runs a front page article on Foxconn, Apple Computer’s supply chain, and how it’s business practices are part of the problem.
With apologies to Apple, I put my Fairly Made logo on a page of their website. Obviously, Apple has to back it up, but I know it would make people feel better about Apple and buying their products. Imagine going into Best Buy, and seeing the Fairly Made logo on the shelf talker next to the flat screen you’re considering. Awareness at point of sale would make a big difference.
I think tech companies need third party validation in this area. I mentioned the Fair Labor Association earlier. They’re a big organization with members that are primarily in the apparel business. Apple, to their credit, is the first technology company to join. What if the FLA developed a campaign that let us know which products and companies were doing the right by their workers? I’d buy it, and I’ll bet most of my left leaning, Apple-loving, fair-trade advocating friends would too.