I’m part of the problem.
Of course, we’re all part of the problem.
It goes this way:
Let’s say I want to get some yoga pants. It would be good if they were comfortable. I want less plastic against my skin, so nothing made of petroleum products. Why support the oil economy? So cotton or hemp are good.
Oh, and I don’t want something made with child labor, or made in sweatshops. Hmm… okay maybe I can find out where the pants were assembled, which is a big part of the problem. Maybe now there are Fair Trade yoga pants? But, that doesn’t tell me where the cotton is grown. A lot of cotton is harvested by young children who are overworked, underpaid, and overexposed to pesticides.
And wait, the yoga pants that claim to be ethically made and all that are about $150, while I can get a nice pair at Target for $15.
Oh, and Target and Wal-Mart and the mass merchandisers are more efficient, so end up using less fuel – per item – to transport products. That that means the burden of product miles and food miles can actually be less than some one-off Fair Trade importer can achieve, therefore a lower carbon footprint.
Is it really worth ten times the price, or even 10% more, to have something where I don’t really know if it’s making a difference?
Now, do the same math for about any product: food, clothing, water…you’ll see the problem.
Stepping back to the big picture: one of the marketer’s dreams is to have a product or category which can be differentiated. The more the product can be made different, the higher the price you can charge and subsequent margins you can reap. So, the more FUD, the better.
Stepping even further back, by consuming less and being more selective about what I do consume, I can have some impact on the working conditions of others.