So a customer opens a new handbag to find it contains a note scribbled by a child working in a sweatshop in the Middle East somewhere. “Enjoy your lovely new bag, I made it while working in appalling conditions” reads the hurriedly scribbled note.
You can imagine the reaction of a customer when they realise where their luxury purchases came from and what horrid, miserable conditions workers employed to make them have endured.
Not good for business, I hear you say. Well, that’s exactly the point, and while this is a hypothetical example there are hundreds of business brands whose sales have plummeted when harmful impacts linked to the manufacturing process of their goods have been exposed in one way or another.
The truth is that unethical manufacturing practices are becoming harder and harder to hide, especially in light of the prevalence of social media. One “note in a handbag” story, gone viral can spell disaster for any business, however huge and seemingly untouchable their operations appear.
Ethics is good for business
Moreover, the average customer is becoming more and more discerning about the impact that their purchase will have on the environment and the community around them. Indeed ethical working conditions for workers and fair treatment of people, animals and the environment during the manufacturing process of goods is becoming a unique selling point for many a multi-million pound retailer. Not only does an ethical attitude prevent a PR crisis, it also creates new business in the form of ethically conscious buyers who will choose one brand over another purely on account of how ethical their operations are.
It isn’t surprising that businesses are taking steps to address these trends around consumer purchasing behaviour. Businesses like Fruitful Office are actively investing in schemes that benefit the communities their goods come from.
In the case of Fruitful Office, the business has come up with a unique idea in the form of planting fruit trees all over Africa. The scheme isn’t just a superficial sticking plaster for a wider problem either. In this case the business has put its money where its mouth is, and committed to planting one tree in Africa for every product that is consumed in Europe. So far that equals 2.5 million trees and counting.
This initiative addresses several issues of potential harm that might be seen as linked to their operations. Harvesting fruit for commercial export purposes can create shortages of fruit in certain areas, so the tree planting schemes across Africa tackle this issue before it becomes a problem for a poor population.
Trees can be used for cheap firewood by African families, again, ensuring that commercial harvesting of fruit brings something useful to the local communities, as opposed to creating harm. The scheme additionally tackles deforestation, which as we all know can bring misery to poor communities living in mud huts.
Fruitful Office has also just launched a new initiative called Fareshare’s #ActiveAte campaign which distributes excess fruit to charitable groups throughout the UK. The aim is to give kids healthy snacks and reduce food waste. So far, more than 50k kids in the UK have benefitted.
Do you have a story about ethics and business?
Why not post about it in the comments section, and get a conversation going?