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Conscientious Consumerism

The once clear cut choice of ‘working for the man’ or ‘sticking it to the man’ has become somewhat less defined with indirect corporate involvement in the arms trade, as well as human rights and environmental issues. But whether we admit it or not, at some stage we will have to decide what impression we want to make on the world and how it is we measure our own success. With the weight of a student loan on our backs, education is no longer a time for self-discovery but instead a hefty investment encouraging us to prioritise a high income over self satisfaction: but regardless of our individual definitions of a fulfilling career, when applying for jobs we should be aware of the companies we’ll support and the impact they have.

We should recognise that without the profit driven role of corporate competition there would be very little to keep the economy going, but that doesn’t mean our morals should be completely compromised by supporting the big players who have repetitively overstepped the ‘ethical’ line. Not mentioning any names. (Nestlé, Abbott Laboratories, Cocoa Cola, BP…)

Whilst ‘corporate social responsibility’ seems to be the accessory of the season, distinguishing between the glowing self assessment of a marketing ploy and the realities of a company’s activities is far from simple. However we are undoubtedly foolish if we feel that clarity isn’t available when even our ‘new, new testament’, Wikipedia, gives a glimpse of some of the pledges and scandals made by most of the giants ruling the market. Websites such as www.ethicalcorp.com, www.foe.co.uk and www.corporatewatch.org.uk make that definition all the more clear. However, its not just the bankers and businessmen (and women) amongst us who need to be alert, even occupations such as pharmacists have a huge role to play in ensuring that who they are working for are putting people before profits.

Whether tree hugging or money loving, what’s sure is that none of us will ever settle for anything less than minimum wage, and we’ll demand a certain amount of respect within our chosen place of work. Then isn’t it slightly ironic that it seems so blasé to support the exploited employment of others by our callous choice of chocolate bar or ‘more economically viable’ jar of coffee. While we munch on our kitkat are we negligible in not ensuring that its workers too, will receive a break? Believing that one person can’t make a difference and conforming to the impediment of change seems to have become unjustly overlapped and as impoverished students we are quick to dismiss anything that seems a few pennies too many. Yet fortunately for us poverty means cutting back on that unnecessary stock up on midnight feastage from Jacksons, not telling your children they can’t go to school because they need to help out cocoa picking twelve hours a day. The assumption that fair-trade is a costly luxury is fairly hypocritical when we would never expect anything less than a fair wage for ourselves. However, even the most tight-pursed of us can change our ways by simply uttering the words ‘fairtrade please’ when certain places such as Costa provide it at no extra cost. After all wouldn’t we rather drink coffee than sweat?

We leave uni as employees, voters, consumers and maybe even human beings. So surely, this venture into adulthood is a chance for us to face up to our responsibilities not only in the job market but on the shopping shelves as well. For the rest of us we remain protected by the bubble which allows us to conform to the excuse of being ‘poor students’ who will of course do our bit when we’re older.

Florence Anderson

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One Comment
  • Timothy Fylnn Childs
    12 November 2008 at 23:06
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    Good article flolops! Some awesome use of kitkat puns I must say. I work for the man and it is rubbish.

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