Do the Right Thing
Top five worst excuses not to go green, go safe and go responsible:
1. It’s too expensive.
2. One person can’t make a difference.
3. It doesn’t fit my lifestyle.
4. The quality of the products just isn’t as high.
5. I don’t know where or how to begin.
Sometimes it is tough to get going in the right direction, which is probably the reason for annual promise-making rituals such as New Year’s resolutions and the Christian tradition of giving up certain habits during Lent. Human beings are creatures of habit who find it difficult to change without a helping hand to force them into action.
As consumers and distributors who buy and place purchase orders daily, is there any investigation being done to discover the who, what, when, where, why and how behind the products being bought and sold? Could it be one of those things where a helping hand is necessary to initiate change? In your business, do you find the research and requirements overwhelming?
If you said you could use a little help, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are suppliers, both retail and promotional, happy to fill in the gaps and give ethical choices to buyers. Following a model of “conscious consumerism,” EDUN, an eco-aware, socially responsible and fashion-forward apparel company located in Dublin, Ireland, was founded by rocker Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson back in 2005. Christine Driscoll, business development manager for EDUN LIVE, EDUN’s promotional line, provided insight into the company’s mission and the impetus behind their recent launch into the promotional arena. “Consumers have the power to make real positive social impact through making ethical purchases,” explained Driscoll. “Ali and Bono recognized this and decided to launch EDUN as a means to effectuate change on the ground in developing countries and in the minds of fashion consumers. ... Through EDUN LIVE, we can employ more people ... in Africa because the product is easy to learn for workers and we are running large volumes through.”
But don’t mistake EDUN LIVE for a charitable organization. It is a socially responsible, for-profit company, dedicated to creating sustainable employment opportunities within Sub-Saharan Africa. The company seeks to make their business model one that can be replicated by other supplier companies. The promotional clothing line introduced by EDUN LIVE is 100 percent “grow-to-sew African,” Driscoll explained. “From the cotton we source, all the way through to the last stitch, we keep the supply chain in Africa so the people learn the skills and are able to create value-added products in their communities.”
While EDUN’s model is one direction distributors can go to support socially responsible practices, its not the only direction. Angela Wurst, marketing coordinator for Crystal D, St. Paul, Minn., expressed that the company’s core values inherently create a corporate environment that revolves around respect for others, stewardship for the environment and community outreach. “One of our best community outreach events is [working] with an organization called Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit organization that sends hand-packed meals formulated specially for starving children to more than 60 countries around the world,” said Wurst. “We choose an afternoon each summer, and the entire company goes to a nearby location to pack meals. Last year, we beat our previous record and packed 27,216 meals. It was enough food to feed 75 children every day for one year.”
While the work performed by Crystal D is based a charitable giving model, Wurst noted the key element necessary for corporate entities to make a difference, “Each company needs to define for itself how involved it will be in the community,” she said. “It works for Crystal D because our values are so ingrained as a part of who we are. Community outreach just fits as a part of our culture.”
It would seem that during times of economic strife and uncertainty, building community and developing sustainable employment in countries across the ocean may be placed on the back burner until financial markets and economies stabilize, but this isn’t the case. “I don’t think the economy will have any effect on corporate responsibility,” noted Wurst. “I think companies who are already giving back will continue to do so. If anything, I see our efforts expanding in the upcoming year, due to an increased need from nonprofits and community service organizations.”
Driscoll echoed these sentiments and recognized a definitive push from distributors looking for ways to make ethical business decisions while finding great product, “Yes, we definitely are seeing growth in this market,” she said. “People do love the mission and want to support it,” she said, though she emphasized it does not supersede interest in a quality product.
And to those who aren’t actively making conscious choices on the promotional front, Wurst concluded, “the rewards of giving back to the community far outweigh the costs or the time taken to give back. Not only are you being responsible and giving back to those in need, but you are also creating opportunities to team build, keep employees engaged and build a stronger corporate culture.”
It can be likened to going for that cup of coffee at the same quick-stop joint every morning on your way into work—you do it because you know it is made just right, the way you like it. But what if you found out that somewhere between the fields of coffee beans and that first steaming sip that touches your lips in the morning, people were suffering and, even worse, dying—would that be enough to make you switch coffee shops? Would it be enough for you to take a left at the corner instead of a right and change your ways?
As salespeople and business owners, there are bottom line choices that have to be made in order to keep the profit and loss in check. But in today’s world, there are new options available. And today, that cup of coffee you were looking for doesn’t have to hurt anyone in order to provide us all our creature comforts. Now, there is a shop just another mile down the road that offers Fair Trade coffee, which ensures fair wages and a safe work environment for all involved in the supply chain. As for that fashion-forward tee your client was looking for or hard goods you need in a hurry, there are ethically conscious companies out there with great products—so no more excuses.