I was just starting to write a piece about a subject that had been sticking in my craw for some time now. When I came across this pic on my Facebook feed (see below – thanks Redbunny!), and determined it to be a blog-worthy accompaniment. In Sweden, where I am right now, this kind of “Eco-marketing” is absolutely pervasive and out of control. Marketers tap into people’s “first-world-guilt” to get them to pay more for “eco”-labeled (or “Ecologisk” as they call them here in Scandinavia) products. For everything from bananas,coffee,laundry detergent,cleaning products, to paper towels, people fall for it. They literally, sometimes very smugly, pay much more for products based solely on what the label says.
Knowing what I know about where many of these products come from (from my time in Latin America), I assure them that there is simply no difference between “eco”-bananas, and standard Chiquita bananas, regular coffee and “fair trade” coffee, and so on. Only to get eye-rolling and giggling in response. “Silly, cynical American…” they say, “It’s on the label, it HAS to be true!”. Oy vey…
Seriously people, this whole thing behind “Fair trade” and “Eco” marketing is nothing but a scam. Here’s why. The way business and commerce work in this day and age, it’s simply not possible to have a “parallel” supply chain for produce and raw-materials to produce these “eco” products. Unless, that is, the company selling the product also owns every part of the supply chain going down to the very first link of said chain. This means that the company has to own all the farmland used to grow the produce, the sources of the raw materials, and so on. And quite simply, there is NOT ONE company anywhere in the world that does this.
The supply chain is the same for ALL products in an industry. A “fair trade” coffee seller has to buy his coffee from the same sources as everyone else. The same goes for bananas, wood-pulp, or any other raw material or produce that is needed for a product. There is simply not a “parallel market” that operates on a different plane just to supply “eco” products. No matter WHAT anyone tells you. It’s all smoke and mirrors.
“Oh, but wait!”, the naysayers protest.. “The products I buy are CERTIFIED to be eco-friendly, organic, fair-trade! Look at the label! CERTIFIED!”
Yeah, sure. There may very well be a wholesaler, vendor, or distributor that can show to its buyers that its “supply chain” can be “verified”. They can show to their retail buyers that their growers don’t use pesticides, don’t do this, don’t do that, that they pay fair wages, etc. And congratulations, they get “CERTIFIED” by whatever bullshit-certifying authority deems them fit.
But here’s the problem. Demand ALWAYS exceeds their supply. There are simply not enough producers doing things the “certified” way to meet the gullible consumers’ demands. So what’s the “eco-supplier” to do? That’s right…. they buy more product from evil, “non-eco” producers, and mix it in with their product, and sell it for the same price. In fact, I will bet the money I won in poker last night that many of those “certified” vendors are nothing but front operations to earn the certification. Considering that I’ve seen many of these operations myself, I will go even further. I’ll bet that the vast majority of their product are bought from standard producers. Which, of course, makes it the ultimate scam. Pay more for the same shit.
Consider this your public-service message of the day. If you’re buying “eco” or “fair trade” products, you’re being seriously jacked. Worse, you can be assured that those companies’ marketing departments are laughing at your gullibility. Since there is no way to really know, you might as well do your own research, make your own choices, and pick your products carefully from producers you know and trust. Buy from local producers whenever you can, and just hope for the best.
Whatever you do, don’t be a sucker.