The experience of being socially responsible can be very profound. If you think about it everything you do — and don’t do — has meaning. For example, the decision to purchase products — or not — is an important one. Should you consider the cost of a product at face value? Or are there other costs you may want to factor in that do not appear on the price tag?
One train of thought suggests that in addition to the financial cost of a product, there’s also a carbon cost — a measure of the carbon released into the atmosphere to make the product and get it to market.
When making a purchase some ask: How was the product produced? What type of energy was used? What type of materials are in product itself? Under what conditions was it manufactured? What kind of oversight (if any) did the item go through? Is it something that will last? Or will it end up in a landfill shortly? Finally, what impact will the purchase of that product have on ecosystems and efforts to develop socially responsible business models?
Let’s consider products manufactured in China, for example. Though there are good products made there, the vast majority are built under poor (at best) working conditions by people that enjoy few (if any) labor rights. The overwhelming majority of manufactured goods from China are produced by factories that use electricity generated by coal — which is both the dirtiest fossil fuel and the one that spits out the most greenhouse gases (which adds to global warming).
Once built, these goods are sent overseas on ships that burn diesel fuel, then moved to local markets by trucks and/or rails, most of which also burn fossil fuels. Though the products may be cheap in terms of their monetary cost, the cost in carbon can be enormous.
Should socially responsible firms take advantage of the low cost? Or is there an equivalent product manufactured by a local green business, or one that purchases carbon offsets? Or — consider this — can you do without the product altogether?
Though these are tough decisions, they give every business owner and consumer enormous potential power. And that power is renewable…