A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

What cost is acceptable to consumers?

The word is getting smaller every day, and no nation can stand alone in the matters of commerce. The news recently has covered the tragedy in Bangladesh where the death count has exceeded 300. One of Canada’s major retailers Loblaw’s is facing severe consumer backlash over the Joe Fresh line of clothing sourced from that factory. According to Canadian Press, Loblaw’s has sent representatives to Bangladesh to “We will be looking at what are the efforts that have been made and what else needs to be done? Where do we need to put pressure? We will also be discussing these issues with the federal government,” said Diane Brisebois. Source: Edmonton Journal

In 2010 between January and November Foxconn had eighteen workers attempt suicide, resulting in 14 deaths. The majority of these deaths were listed by the company as fell from building, not jumped or suicide. Foxconn was and is a major supplier of products to such companies as Apple, Dell, HP, Motorola, Nintendo, Nokia, and Sony. 20 Chinese Universities looked into the situation and described conditions, similar to those found in a labor camp. Foxconn increased wages at the plant, and brought in suicide prevention measure including nets, ant-suicide pledges, and mandatory waivers binding against the workers and their descendants, as a result of unexpected death, self injury or suicide. Apple received a backlash from consumers, over these issues with one of their major suppliers.

In 2012 Apple dealt with about 200 suppliers around the world to produce it’s products. This doesn’t include suppliers of materials to it’s contracted suppliers. Ford motor products deals with almost 90 Aligned Business Framework Partners, who work closely with Ford to cut costs, improve turn-around times, and control quality. Any manufactured product today has parts sourced from around the world. Yet the standards that companies face fro worker protection, and environmental compliance vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. All this to lower production costs, and increase returns to shareholders. In a recent move Walmart, once held up as the champion of outsourcing has committed to increasing American produced goods in it’s stores by $50 billion over 10 years, as well as hiring veterans.

However it is the consumer that has the greatest influence in these matters. If we refuse to buy products made by child laborers, or in countries where workers have few or no protection, and by demanding that products be made in the most environmentally responsible way possible. Yes this comes with a cost, including the real possibility of forgoing a purchase until the item can be sourced from suppliers that meet our expectations. Many North Americans and Europeans have a relative or perhaps themselves who has had their job out-sourced to a lower cost country. Seldom do consumers see these savings passed along to ourselves, instead increased returns to investors seems to be the norm.

I have developed a policy I try to use in assessing these situations, however each of us has to make our own choices. I try to choose companies that treat the environment and their workforce with the dignity and respect I would want applied to myself, and where I live. When I make a purchase, I try to put my beliefs in doing no harm to other sentient beings into practice.

1. If a locally made product is available within 15% of the price of an imported product I choose the locally made. This helps keep my neighbors and other taxpayers here working. The more working, paying taxes the fewer needing government assistance, which allows those who truly need help to receive it.

2. When making a purchase try to buy from a company with high environmental standards in practice. Almost every company has a green statement these days, but a little time spent researching, shows which companies do more than just print slogans. As I tend to keep my electronics longer than many, the cost difference is less of an issue.

3.   I use sites such as Fair Labor Association, W.T.O., as well as the news to attempt to keep current on labor issues.


How do you see this issue, leave me a comment so we can develop a dialogue leading to a better understanding of the issue. There is no cut and dry answer to these issues, but working together we can raise the benchmarks that apply to all of us.


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5 thoughts on “What cost is acceptable to consumers?

  1. I have been thinking a great deal about the cost of oil. Not in dollars, but on the environment. And I have thought a great deal about labourers in other countries who have horrible working conditions. I want the world to find a better energy source and I want workers to be treated better. It’s not that simple though is it? People want to drive cars and fly in planes and buy cheap products and we hardly ever think of the cost as it manifests itself apart from money. Also, boycotting a company with poor working conditions also throws workers into deeper poverty due to unemployment. And locally, especially here in Alberta our economy is so dependent on the very resources we destroy our planet with by their extraction. What kind of world are we leaving to our children and their children?

    Perhaps the bigger issue is as old as mankind itself: Greed

    • Diana it is a complex issue, and correcting in one place may hurt somewhere else. That is why I invited a discussion, as we each will have to make our own choices. I just hope we each make the best choices we can in our circumstances. As to greed, it has been with us a long time, and I don’t see it disappearing soon.

      • Yes I will be watching the discussion with great interest! Too bad we can’t make greed unfashionable so that those doing it just feel lame! 😉

  2. alsview on said:

    I think that should be everyone’s primary benchmark, what type of world, do we wish to leave our children? As to Greed being unfashionable, we still laud Mr. Scrooge to our children, as long as you repent at the end, it’s okay.

  3. Pingback: Are your goals and ambitions leading to happiness? | A Western Buddhist's Travels

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