What Does Just Living Look Like? Part 2: Becoming a Just Consumer

June 8, 2016

Last time in our just living series, we talked about our motivation for living justly.  We established that the Bible gives us, as Christ followers, a call to live lives characterized by just action.

But what does it mean to live justly?  How can we translate this important and vital piece of our Christian identity into our daily practices?  What we consider today is how we can be more just consumers.  Because of course much of our lives involve the things we buy. We can work to consume less and in fact in other places we discuss how we might do this, but in the end we all make purchases.  And with these purchases our money supports systems that are either just or unjust.  How can we ensure it is the former and not the latter?

The answer is not a simple one.

It can be overwhelming to attempt to police the supply chain of everything we purchase at the start of the journey toward ethical consuming.  If as we begin to understand our responsibility to work toward justice as consumers we make being perfect our goal we will likely become frustrated and overwhelmed.  In truth because we live in such a global world that our clothes, furniture, coffee, food, entertainment and electronics are manufactured, packaged shipped in places and with processes we will never see.  But this does not mean we cannot, or should not, make a start and add to that as we are able.

One way we can begin to look at putting our buying power toward longer-term justice is to purchase Fairtrade products when they are an option as with things such as with chocolate, coffee, sugar, produce, and some clothing.  For discussions on the efficacy of Fairtrade read here and here.

We can also begin to research the supply lines of our favorite stores or products using the beauty of the internet with programs like Oxfam’s Behind the Brands which assesses the social and environmental policies of the world’s ten largest food and beverage companies and calls on them to take steps to create a more just food system.  And tools like Better World Shopper provide people with a comprehensive, up-to-date, reliable account of the social and environmental impact of companies in a practical format that individuals can easily access. Better World Shopper has more than 5 years of intensive research behind it and is connected to a database of over 1000 companies and  25+ reliable sources of data to cover a wide range of issues from the environment to human rights, community development to animal protection.  In this instance the internet proves to be our friend.

Information like this at our fingertips can allow us to inform our consuming in such a way that our dollars are invested to value human beings instead of degrade them, to protect the environment instead of destroy it, and reflect our principles instead of contradict them.  We can not only avoid buying from companies that keep people in slavery and poverty but we can actively support companies that pay fair wages, support communities, protect the environment and value, through their activities, the things we value.

Becoming a more just consumer is not an easy task.  It requires a diligent pursuit of information, it often costs more to purchase products made ethically and it is difficult to do at the last minute. But we can all take one step forward and change our spending on one product at a time.

Interested in learning more? BFJN is hosting an awesome panel discussion next week, Thursday, June 16 at 6:30 PM, on Just Consumption with speakers from Oxfam, Fair Trade USA, the Fields Corner Business Lab and the Abolitionist Network! Get more details here and come join the discussion!



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