Tag Archives: Corporate-Responsibility-Mondays

Where I do My Grocery Shopping

This is actually a repost of something I wrote last year, but I figured it fit appropriately on a Monday (CRM). This has changed a little since we live in a community and I don’t actually do much of the shopping, but I think it’s still pertinent to most people. I’ll probably elaborate on CSA’s and other things more at some point soon. From February of 2006:

When it comes to most of my purchasing, price is a major factor. In the same way that I wouldn’t go pick the most expensive designer jeans and assume they are the best, ethically and quality, I don’t go for the most expensive groceries and consider it ethical. Currently, we (my wife and I) do our main shopping at ALDI. I’ve tried as much as possible to find out more about the ethics of ALDI’s and compare it to other grocer’s but never with much luck. I did recently find out that ALDI’s is owned by the same company that owns Trader Joe’s from whom there is a little more information. I also occasionally shop at Kroger. Kroger as a company has done some fairly unethical stuff in the past, as far as worker right’s in their stores, and for about 6 months we joined in a boycott of their stores. From what I know the strike and boycott was a victory and some good agreements where made. ALDI’s is Extremely reasonably priced, but the savings are mostly in how they run the store, not in short changing their workers and producers (From what I can tell).
If you shop at a place like Kroger or other major retail chain you’ll also encounter having to choose what brand products to buy. It’ll take you a little while to read through, but I’d highly recommend reading the notes at ResponsibleShopper.org about FOOD brands. The goal is not for you to read all the bad stuff and lament ever eating again, but rather for you to become more aware and educated about some of the situations stores have been in. Like I suggested in a Fair Trade article I wrote, I would suggest picking one product (coffee, chocolate, tea) and choosing to buy it ONLY Fair Trade.
In addition, I personally know I want to shop at the local Farmer’s Market more. Nashville has a year-round Farmer’s market that carries plenty of produce, and I would recommend anyone I know to shop there first. Also, if you could become part of a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) I would encourage you doing that. We were part of a local CSA in the fall and plan to continue come spring time. Basically each week we would get a bin of food. Always a dozen eggs and a whole chicken, and then an assortment of fruits and vegetables. We had to learn how to cook new items and discovered many different peppers and squashes. I would HIGHLY recommend you get involved in a CSA if you can find one.
Last but not least, for you radical few out there, I would recommend you find a local Food Not Bombs group, hang out, and learn a little bit about the art of dumpster diving.

CRM Summer Project: Socially Responsible Investing

Corporate Responsibility Mondays
As Summer quickly approaches it’s time for Corporate Responsibility Mondays to come to a close. It’s been a fun series as Josh and I have co-blogged about corporations in similar industries with differing records:

  1. Clothing:
    Bad: L.L. Bean
  2. Technology:
    Good: Dell and Green hosting
    Evil: Apple
  3. Clothing:
    Good: Maggie’s Organics
    Bad: Kohls
  4. Sweets:
    Good: Equal Exchange
    Bad: Sara Lee
  5. Shoes:
    Good: Tom’s, Hersey, No Sweat, Adbusters, etc.
    Bad: Nike
  6. Bananas:
    Good: Fair Trade
    Bad: Chiquita
  7. Clothing:
    Good: No Sweat Apparel
    Bad: J. Crew
  8. Fast Food:
    Good: Chipotle
    Evil: Burger King
  9. Stocks and Investing:
    Good: Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)
    Bad: Fidelity (and Playboy)

This week, as the Corporate Responsibility draws to a close, Josh and I will be talking about investing. Josh is highlighting a invest firm/stock you might want to stay away from. I’m going to take a different approach today and simply introduce you to the area, not a specific company, of Socially Responsible Investing.

Socially Responsible Investing (which I’ll call SRI from now on) is a fairly simple and straight forward concept, which is simply to have a goal of investing responsibly. What this entails will vary person to person and company to company so it’s something that takes a bit of research.
SRI has taken some criticism because the term doesn’t have clear standards with it or criteria by which to understand what is “responsible” and what is not. Critics say that anyone can simply write up a righteous sounding mission statement and label themselves SRI there by drawing customers and not really being required to perform at the same level of other Mutual Funds and stocks. In an industry that’s fundamental existence has to do with the bottom line, any one suggesting ethics or responsibility come first will be expected to be challenged and looked at funny. The critics do have a point. There are companies out there that have simply taken the label of SRI, but are neither being ‘responsible’ nor seriously ‘investing.’ Yet, that shouldn’t cause use to ditch the whole industry and invest without regard to our values.
If you have any intention of investing your money in the stock market during your life, whether for retirement, college, or just long-term investing, it’s important that your values are reflected in what your choosing. Some SRI stocks focus on environmentally green companies, others seek to avoid tobacco and alcohol, others actively avoid military and gun companies. SRI involves to components usually, screening and activism. Screening is like a mentioned above, filtering companies and stocks based on certain value criteria. They would decide what makes up their portfolio based on avoiding certain companies and seeking out other ones. Activism is the idea of using your investment and stake as a shareholder to encourage change in companies. So, an SRI Mutual Fund might invest in Apple computers so that they can advocate at the annual shareholders meeting for Apple to research more environmentally friendly ways of producing and recycling their products.
The hardest part of SRI is actually doing it. I’ve researched the field off and on for about a year. When I had the chance to set-up a pension with my work I didn’t have much of a choice, there was only one SRI to choose from, Calvert. I’ve been happy with Calvert so far, but I plan on doing more research this summer and seeing what I come up with. Hopefully after this brief lesson your interested in researching Socially Responsible Investing too. That’s why I’ve dubbed this the CRM Summer Project. Maybe this post can be come the conversation hub for our research on SRI and what conclusions we come to on were you should invest. Here are some links to get you started:

Full Disclosure: I currently have some Mutual Funds that are not in SRI funds. I had them before I discovered this important concept and had a desire to align all of my life with my values. I plan on moving them, but didn’t want to make any snap decisions, but rather move them once I understand what’s best.

Corporate Responsibility Mondays have been a ton of fun and I hope you’ve found them interesting and useful. I’ll continue to try and highlight important companies as I discover them, but for now it’s time to say goodbye to the weekly co-blogging with Josh and open Mondays once again.

Be sure to check out Josh’s final post on a stock to avoid.

Corporate Responsibility: Quenching Your Thirst

Corporate Responsibility Mondays
Corporate Responsibility Mondays are simple, I’ll highlight responsible companies, Josh will highlight not so responsible companies. Today we are taking on the beverage industry, and I’ll be giving you two for the price of one.

When it comes to Fair-Trade, Organic Soda Pop, there is only one certified company out there, and that’s JavaPop. But it’s not your normal Soda, it’s Coffee Soda. I’ve never had Coffee soda so I’m not sure if it fits in with the Pepsi and Dr. Pepper products, but it is a Soda, and your coffee addicts might just love it. JavaPop was created to fill the niche market of beverages for those looking for Fair Trade options. They get their beans from a well established fair trade Roaster, Green Mountain Coffee, so you can be pretty sure it’s the quality and value your expecting.

The thing is, I don’t really like Coffee, so I wanted to make sure I highlight another company that might also be worth buying from, Jones Soda. The only reason I was hesitant to highlight Jones is because there isn’t a lot of information on their website or elsewhere highlighting why they might fit with our values and ethics, but there also wasn’t any criticism (though they are smaller so that’s not too surprising).

Jones SodaTheir profile on Knowmore.org has only a praise listed and they have pretty good ratings (compared to others). If your looking for Organic, they have a whole line of organic teas, USDA certified organic at that.
Here are some other highlights:

  • Jones Soda Co. announced today its support of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA). Jones Soda will raise a minimum of $25,000 (US) for ADA and $5,000 (CAN) for CDA to further diabetes research, information and advocacy.
  • Jones Soda uses recycled products to create their bottles and encourages consumer recycling
  • Jones uses pure cane sugar for their sodas, not High Fructose Corn Syrup.
  • They have this great line hinting at alternative fuel ideas: “So leave the corn for your cars, and keep the sugar for your soda.”

I couldn’t find conclusive evidence about the distribution and where their ingredients and materials come from, but from what I could see I think they are completely made in the USA. Jones Soda, as you might know, is a fun company that displays consumer submitted photos on all their bottles. They are unique and different and I think they are more willing to embrace responsible values then the big companies out there. So if your looking to quench your thirst, check out Jones Soda and JavaPop.

And be sure to check out Josh’s post on a irresponsible company.

Corporate Responsibility Monday: Going Ethically Bananas

Corporate Responsibility Mondays
Corporate Responsibility Mondays continues with a look into the fruit industry, and my personal favorite, Bananas. For those new to the Corporate Responsibility Mondays, my goal is basically to highlight a company in the industry that is being corporately responsible. My co-blogger, Josh, will be highlighting a company with a poor and sketchy history. This week we will be talking about bananas. My hope is that each of these posts causes you to seriously consider your purchasing choices. I’ll be honest this will be the toughest one for me, because I love bananas, but if there is an option, I feel pretty compelled to take it.

Today will be a brief lesson in corporate identity stuck into the middle of our banana conversation. The logo above is one you might recognize if you’ve ever looked for ethical coffee or tea. The first thing we need to clear up is that the logo above is for a Trademarked corporation, it is not the exclusive label for fair trade items. This means it is not like the FDA approval system were all fair trade items must be certified by it. The logo above is for a company whose business is to visit it’s (paid) membership producers and make sure that they meet the criteria of their Fair Trade Certified logo. So, it’s a good organization and a good business, but it is not the exclusive fair trade certifying group. All of the other companies I’ve highlighted in these posts are Fair Trade, though I don’t believe any are members of this organization. It’s unfortunate that this company was able to Trademark the words “Fair Trade”, because without the lesson your learning now, you might feel limited to exclusively items with this logo.

Now that we have that clarification out of the way, let me acknowledge that Fair Trade Certified really does mean that you are getting a fairly traded product.

Fair Trade principles include:

* Fair prices: Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farmer organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.

* Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.

* Direct trade: Importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to strengthen their organizations and become competitive players in the global economy.

* Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers decide democratically how to use their Fair Trade revenues.

* Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification.

* Environmental sustainability: The Fair Trade certification system strictly prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), promotes integrated farm management systems that improve soil fertility, and limits the use of harmful agrochemicals in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations.

They are the big boys on the Fair Trade block, but they seem to have done an ethical job of it thus far. You can search pretty far and wide and there isn’t any critique that I could find about their standards. The only thing I would say is that being a big organization and having the brand identity so established, you need to keep an eye on them if they lower their standards or start pocketing too much of the profit. For now though, they are about the only way in the USA to get ethical bananas.

The website will tell you were you in your state you can purchase Fair Trade bananas, but one place they leave out is Wild Oats. It’s the only place in Nashville that I can purchase fair trade bananas and that might be true for a lot of folks reading this from around the country. The fair trade bananas in my neighborhood cost .99 cents a pound which is double what I’d pay at the big grocer in town. So, maybe bananas become more of an occasional treat then an every day occurrence. Usually you buy a small bunch at a time and so the price difference won’t be that significant. There aren’t many other options out there right now, but as you and I and all your friends start buying things more ethically, business will see the need to comply and soon the whole fruit section will be full of fair trade options.


Don’t forget to check out Josh’s post this week on a less ethical banana choice.

Corporate Responsibility: For Clothing Meet Maggie

Corporate Responsibility Mondays

Corporate Responsibility Mondays continue as we turn toward clothing
companies. It’s something you and many generations before and after you
need, whether you like it or not. Ever since the fall there’s been a
market for us to cover ourselves, and a beautiful opportunity for us to
do so in a responsible way. What you wear is not just about fashion and
style, there is so much more to it, there are real people behind the

In cooperation with Josh, Corporate Responsibility Mondays are our chance to introduce you to both the troubling facts behind some of our big brands (thanks to Josh)
and to people and corporations that are doing business in a way you can
support and believe in. Today we are talking about the clothing
industry. Josh will talk about one of the big names in the business, and I’ll introduce you to a company that is doing business in a way I think we can all be excited about.

Maggie's Organics

The most common response I hear when I start talking about trying to
make purchases in a way that is just and fair, is “yeah, but I’m sure
every company has problems if you look for it.” In other words, people
justify their choices by convincing themselves that everyone’s corrupt
so there’s no real point. We’ll I’m proud to say that you can point all
the Cynic’s to Maggie’s Organics. From the plant to your foot, every step of the clothing production and process is something to be proud of.

Maggie’s purchases their merchandise from Nueva Vida Women’s Sewing
Cooperative (COMAMNUVI), the world’s first WORKER-OWNED Free Trade
Zone. This isn’t just a big corporation out to make money in the name
of social responsibility, this is a genuine business, where the power
rests in the hands of those that matter most, the workers.

Their website says it all:

In Nicaragua there are many free trade zones where mainly women work in “sweat shops”, producing clothing under unacceptable labor conditions, long hours and low pay. In a cooperative,
the workers are the owners. We are working together to create
sustainable employment in the community so that we can support
ourselves and our families.

If your even more interested in how the cooperative came to be, I’d
encourage you to check out their video, Ants that Move Mountains, which
I made available on youtube (Ants 1 and 2).

Maggie’s Organics
is a great distributer and has most of the basics that everyone needs,
from socks to simple t-shirts. The neat thing is that there prices are
fairly reasonable too. You can buy t-shirts from $13 and score them on closeout for $10. Socks are more expensive then the sweatshop made ones, but I think the trade off is worth it.

When compared to companies with practices like Josh describes, a fair
trade cooperative, is clearly the best option out there. An interview
of a local worker at a major factory (possibly one operated by the company Josh discussed) and one at the coop shows some of the differences (pdf).
Everything from working conditions and wages, to paid time off and
vested interest in the product and company, it’s apparent that Maggie’s
Organics and the Nicaraguan Cooperative are doing some amazing things.

When it comes to the clothing industry I don’t think we can make
excuses about not doing what’s right. I see two options… Either buy
your clothing second-hand or buy it new from a fair trade company like Maggie’s Organics.