We believe that consumers have the power to drive change. MEC membership is over 3 million strong, and each of us has the ability to influence commercial systems and the people around us.
Consumerism is an integral part of our lives and the basis of our economic system. When the economy is strong, people make purchases and we all prosper through profitable companies, available jobs, and factories with pending orders. Yet, every material item has environmental implications in terms of disposal, resource depletion, and contribution to climate change. And every manufactured item comes from a factory (whether in Canada or abroad) with potential human rights shortcomings.
We're acutely aware of the relationship between retail trade, consumerism, and factory conditions, and we're also aware that our ideals contrast with the reality we see. But we are realists, and while we know we can't completely change our world, we believe we can positively moderate it. Through our sourcing practices we moderate factory conditions. Through our communications with our members we encourage them to moderate their purchases and to consume ethically.
Whether you're an impulsive buyer or frugal shopper you can be aware of what you consume. You can choose brands and retailers that are ethically aware, test them, ask questions, be positive and remain critical. We encourage you to think about the following questions, and to consider how they might influence your purchasing decisions.
Child labour is unlawful, yet it persists. UNICEF estimates 158 million children throughout the world are engaged in child labour in many sectors including manufacturing. It remains because extreme poverty drives children to supplement their family incomes; it remains because children are vulnerable when systems and practices are not in place to protect them. Regardless of the causes, ending it begins with the question "was this item made by children and how do we know with certainty that it was not?"
In monitoring the factories we contract with, we have found occurrences of child labour. We don't believe it occurs frequently within the supply chains of the outdoor industry.
A consistent finding of our audits is that workers (mostly in the developing world) are not receiving their full wages and benefits as outlined in local laws. The reasons are multifaceted, and can be due to individual decisions, or larger social and economic structures. We work hard to understand the Root Causes of these infractions, as we believe understanding is fundamental to making lasting change.
The nature of manufacturing is hard on the human body. At the most basic level, machines and work places need to be clean and properly maintained. Factory staff need to be trained to safely handle toxic chemicals or physically dangerous processes. In our supply chain we have both strong and weak performers when it comes to these matters.
In situations where the workforce is predominantly female, there is significant potential for harassment. Where there is a large foreign workforce, we know that racial or religious discrimination is a possibility. Although we aware that these conditions exist in some of our contract factories, we've not detected systemic abuses in our supply chain.
Aside from being an informed and inquisitive consumer, you can Maximize Product Life by wearing items out, passing them down, swapping, or renting.
You might also Get Involved, mobilize, tell your peers, act alone and together.