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If I took my conscience shopping everywhere, I suspect I’d stop shopping.

I had two facebook interchanges on the topic this week, one of which also reminded me of a Lululemon issue.
Here are the discussions. What do you think?
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1. To Foie Gras, or not to Foie Gras
Facebook: 28 June 12:47.
Christopher Flett is a business coach extraordinaire, for women. Working with him gave me tremendous lift-off when I started my money coaching business.
Here goes:

Christopher Flett: Kits Farmer’s Market:Just told to “F&CK OFF” by animal rights activist because I like Foie Gras. Full story here: http://tinyurl.com/l5trs8
28 June at 12:47 · via Twitter · Comment · Like

Nancy Zimmerman at 12:52 on 28 June
I’ve been confronted to do a lot of thinking about this kind of issue because of the whole seal hunt thing up here. One question to myself, to which I don’t know the answer but it’s a good question, is: To what extent do I accept responsibility for the humane treatment of the animal that ultimately I eat?

Rikia Saddy at 21:37 on 28 June
I too believe in the circle of life, but I can’t see the point of torturing animals before we eat them. There are many delicious foods that don’t require shoving a hose down the throat of a goose and forcing in 3 pounds of grains and fat, several times a day.
Isn’t a normal-sized goose liver sufficient?

Christopher Flett at 19:51 on 29 June
No it isn’t. If it was, we wouldn’t have to feed them extra helpings.
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2. Made in China
This is an on-the-ground perspective from a former client of mine who sources materials for her company overseas.
(She wrote from Thailand, btw!)

Saw your status and wanted to comment (since I’ve just spent the past week and a half visiting factories in Asia!) Definitely in China health hazards are a plenty. As you can imagine, clothing is ridiculously dusty (especially anything cotton related such as cotton spinning) Every time we do a visit we look for such hazards and the factory owners always tell us the same things… they educate the workers on dust hazards and provide masks but the employees don’t comply.

I’ve been to cotton spinning mills in India and after a 2 hour tour, my nose tickles for days! The factories are usually in hot places so the workers refuse to wear the masks since it’s already so hot without masks on. Don’t get me wrong, I totally don’t agree with it, but I have seen some factories genuinely try to enforce rules to no avail (and for the past few years if an employer got really strict, employees would just move to a more lax factory: I suspect that’ll change a bit now with the slowdown)

Anyway, my two cents after having seen the manufacturing side of things! Manufacturing is certainly a crazy world, don’t even get me going on the labour end of things! A lot of people’s perceptions is that people like Nike produce in sweatshop environments. In actuality, large brands (Nike, Patagonia, mec) are leaders in making improvements in health/safety/pay by ensuring that work hazards are minimized, overtime is paid etc… it’s hardly a perfect world and factories don’t always comply but with more and more brands coming on board it’s getting better. It’s the “no name” brands or knockoff brands (where price is the number one concern) that have little/no standards. Anyway… I digress!

I think the whole manufacturing/3rd world thing is very catch 22.

I’m still torn everyday on what I feel is right or not. The sewers (the workers, not the plumbing system!) make a base wage of less than $5 day (there’s a lot more money to be made in incentives though) and by Western standards, that’s hardly a lot of money. Then again, most of the workers are under 25, without an education and live in factory dormatories (hardly luxurious) accommodations. Then again, they are able to send home at least 50% of their income to their families (typically dirt poor farmers) which is not something that I’d be able to do in Canada! So, because of our Western greediness, the farmers kids move to the factory towns to be able to send money home to support the rest of the family. So does that mean that by buying things we’re exploiting the workers? Or would they be worse off if we didn’t buy anything? The issue I have is if companies (such as lululemon) keep shifting where goods are made because labour costs get too expensive (labour costs in China have been increasing at more than 10% a year for the past few years) and start giving up the Chinese factories in favor or vietnam, bangladesh, etc… that’s where I think the “west” gets exploitative.

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3. Lululemon and child labour
Before Lululemon became a public company, but well into its meteoric rise, I attended a grass-rootsy talk about fashion in Vancouver. Chris Chip was a guest speaker, and discussed sourcing his materials. Apparently he had hired a few young girls in his factories overseas. He openly discussed his dilemma: Odds are that if he didn’t hire the young girls they’d be in the sex trade instead. So what, he asked the audience, would we do in his position? Turn them away knowing the alternatives? Hire them and feel good about providing a safer situation? Hire them and feel lousy about child labour?

About the Author


Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com

6 Comments

  1. it’s pretty simple for me. i buy as much as possible used. try not to buy what i don’t need. don’t eat veal, not even dreaming of foie gras, try to eat free-range chicken eggs, buy veggies in locally owned stores. still a ways to go but yes, i always invite my conscience along for shopping (along with my own shopping bags). whether i always listen … well …

    [Reply]

    Jul 02, 2009
  2. Looby

    Great conversation re: foie gras. I’m not a fan personally but I do love veal so I have to deal with some of the same attitudes. (what do you think happens to male dairy calves that aren’t used for veal?)
    I do like to only buy free range chicken and eggs and try to source meat from farms with good animal husbandry practices (this was considerably easier in the UK!); but I cannot tolerate PETA and their ilk.

    [Reply]

    Jul 03, 2009
  3. angela

    Interesting posts Nancy. I absolutely agree with Isabella – I take my conscience with me when I shop. If we all did this, imagine the collective power we would have to change things? I think that’s the thing that people lose sight of – that small changes can make a huge difference. The consumer does have power – the power is in the thousands of decisions they take on a daily basis in respect of buying things. This is so counter to what we’re taught – that things are too big a problem to solve.

    For example, my unhappiness with the banks and the financial meltdown made me rethink about where I wanted to put my money. I still have one account with a regular bank as it has a lot of branches and is handy for running my business account. But for my own personal bank account I switched to Citizens Bank – its values are much more in line with mine.

    Similarly, I shop at a co-op and buy from small local stores where I can. I don’t shop at Walmart.

    I recently discovered lunapads which are reusable menstrual pads made in canada. They are so comfy! And I’ve also bought a diva cup. And the bonus is that its made me realise that I will no longer have to pour money into paper products each month which are wasting valuable resources not to mention clogging up the environment. The cost savings over time are quite considerable. If every woman in Canada followed suit the effect would be considerable. But because people think it’s just a small change they negate the impact of it.

    I also try and search out goods that are not manufactured in China where I can. This is very very difficult as practically everything seems to be manufactured there. But I take heart from the fact that more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of buying imported goods with all the scares we regularly see in the media about them (toxic paint, toxic plastics etc).

    And as for companies moving their manufacturing base around to get cheap labour – I completely disagree with it. At some point they are going to run out of countries and resources to exploit and then perhaps a more sustainable economy will start to develop.

    [Reply]

    Jul 03, 2009
  4. Odd how I ended up here from NetChick. Have a good day!
    .-= Kyle´s last blog ..Just Launched: NWTers.com =-.

    [Reply]

    Jul 03, 2009
  5. Yes, lots of catch-22s with what we do with our money. Buy while pressuring to please increase our costs by giving more to the workers? The amount of self-imposed constraints can become paralyzing. I want to buy nothing overpackaged, nothing with meat, fish, factory farmed eggs, nor wrapped in plastic, coming from undercut farmers, no MSG or aspartame nor corn sugars. And not too pricey. And worse, I’m a lousy gardener. Doing a little helps tho. Reform the world thru the wallet is effective en masse.
    .-= Pearl´s last blog ..Onwards Canada and so on =-.

    [Reply]

    Jul 03, 2009
  6. brad

    I remember hearing Yvon Chouinard (CEO of Patagonia) explain that he has his clothes made in China because that’s the only place in the world he can find workers who can consistently meet his quality standards. One of Patagonia’s goals is to make the best-made clothing in the world, and in order to do that they need the best seamsters and seamstresses. And according to Chouinard those people are in China; he tried using factories in North America, Europe, and other parts of the world but switched to China based on the quality, not the price.

    I do take my conscience shopping with me, but I don’t want to spend all my free time researching the products I want to buy. So I go with brands that I trust are trying to reduce their environmental and social impacts (MEC, Patagonia, etc.), buy local and organic when the choice is available, and look for recyclability and minimal packaging.

    To guide some of my shopping I also use Ethiquette, a Canadian website that lists eco-friendly product that meet its standards:
    http://www.ethiquette.ca/index.php?lang=en.

    [Reply]

    Jul 04, 2009

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