Posts Tagged ‘The Better World Handbook’

It’s home coming week here in sunny San Luis. I know this, because I just watched a parade of healthy, energetic and rosy cheeked kids waltz by the store, beating bass drums, waving pom poms and yelling indiscernible half sentences.

Here in America, we are afforded the full term of our childhood, and for most of us, this extends on into college years, before we’re thrown in to the fire of making a living for ourselves.

However, in other countries, big companies (often based here in the states) will use the resources of children the same age as those aforementioned painted-face youths. They will pay them little to nothing, drive them to the fourteenth hour, and expose them to harmful, dangerous working conditions. Small hands make quality goods, I guess.

It’s not as though any of these companies are going to go around advertising that they save you money by saving themselves money. Additionally, a lot of these businesses commit other atrocities, destroy the environment, and are about as humanitarian as the Third Reich. So how do you know? How can you tell who’s a member of the republic and who is a member of the dark force? How can you vote with your dollar confidently, knowing you have the full scoop? My, it would be great if someone put together a handbook of major companies, rating them based on their practices.

What? Someone did? Neat. The Better World Shopper is a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the social and environmental responsibility of companies all over the world. It is an extension of The Better World Handbook, which was written in an effort to fight global apathy and cynicism about the tragedies of the world. Its authors, Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler, and Brett Johnson (all of whom have their Ph.D ) are on a mission to be the change they wish to see in the world, through education and inspiration.

An invaluable and easy-to-use reference guide, “The Better World Shopper” provides a comprehensive listing of major manufacturers and corporations, broken down by category (food, apparel, etc.) and graded on an academic A-F scale. The grades are based a strict set of criteria including things like labor practices, environmental responsibility, animal testing, quality of materials or ingredients, and so on… everything the responsible consumer should want to know about how his/her money is being spent.

And the results are fascinating. Many of the grades simply confirm what you always knew or suspected. Lowest grade in the book goes to Exxon-Mobile; lowest score in the food industry goes to Nestle. No surprises there. But some results are bit more disconcerting. Guess which company has some of the very worst child-labor practices… Gerber? Yikes! While others are very re-assuring: A+ for Seventh Generation, with top marks across the board. What a relief to know that they aren’t just tricking us with warm & fuzzy feel-good packaging. No, they’re the real thing!

It’s easy to let life get you down. It’s easy to look around at everyone else putting down their neighbors, out to get theirs, and be washed away in the “If you can’t beat em, might as well get mine” spirit of today’s America. This handbook suggests that we can do better through ten actions and seven foundations of basic human compassion. The Better World Shopper helps to make that easier. Now excuse me, the band outside is playing Iron Man.

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