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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Letter from Publisher

Gabriella Buchnik

Author and sustainable food advocate Anna Lappé once said, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” Ethical financial planning and socially conscious investing is a primary theme of our February issue, presented in our Green Living article, “Investing for Good." The approach calls upon investors to do their homework and avoid investing in companies that exploit the environment (through unmitigated pollution or overuse of nonrenewable resources), workers (via unfair labor practices and gender pay inequality) or animals (with testing, abusive farming practices or exploitive breeding). Socially conscious investors and even those who don’t invest can extend the same values into everyday consumerism.

It’s not always easy to follow the money trail, and slick marketing campaigns may create a convincingly deceptive façade. Being a responsible consumer can be challenging, too, because it’s not always possible to get everything we need solely through independent, transparent and trustworthy local businesses.

Yet, with a little research and attention to detail, consumers and investors alike can use their wallets to hold irresponsible corporations accountable and create change. With a quick internet search, anyone can take a closer look at corporations by reviewing whether their mission, core values and objectives are aligned with socially responsible tenets.

One example is the Move Your Money grassroots efforts during the 2008 recession, which encouraged consumers to send America’s six largest “too-big-to-fail” banks a message about their economically destabilizing practices. Participants closed accounts at those institutions and took their banking to consumer-owned credit unions and smaller, local banks.

Consumer demand has caused conglomerate food corporations to listen, too. As consumers became aware of pesticides, genetically modified ingredients and unhealthy additives such as high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats, mainstream food companies lost market share to healthy, natural and organic foods, which became the fastest growing segments of the industry. Feeling the impact, large consumer corporations began introducing healthier alternatives and acquiring smaller natural foods companies.

Businesses are realizing that not only can they still have a healthy bottom line while being socially and environmentally responsible, but also that it is in their best interest to make the effort. “Eighty-five percent of consumers would switch brands to one associated with a cause,” reports Rachel Goor, the cofounder of Aligned4Good, which provides a platform to help companies create corporate social responsibility programs. In her interview with AlleyWatch, she adds, “A company that is seen as not responsible stands to lose as much as 39 percent of its potential customer base.”

Yet some companies still seem to make business decisions solely based on profit. If consumers continue to use their dollars to vote for the kind of world they want, maybe even the worst environmental and social offenders will make the smart business decision to do the right thing.

Here’s to people power,

Gabriella Buchnik, Publisher