Corporate crap

I recently blogged about comparing the cost of a local handmade corsage to that of a factory imported one.  Now a report for the UN into the activities of the worlds 3,000 largest public companies has estimated the costs to the environment of their activities.

They estimate that more than a third of their profits would be wiped out if they were financially accountable for the damage they do.  They reckon the top firms cause $2.2 trillion dollars worth of damage (£1.4tn) Yes, that's Trillion!  That doesn't even take account of the consumption of those goods ie energy used in using the goods, waste, disposal etc. Nor does it take account of "social impacts" ie of people being driven out of affected areas, health problems and so on.

To add a few of my own: there's also all the tax they often avoid paying which may of gone some way to addressing their activities.  Encouraging a throw away society.  Driving everyones wages down (except the CEOs).  Cheapening talent by plagarising artists work.  It all adds up to, in my estimation, a beeping high cost!

Why do we keep shopping at these corporations?  Is it a lack of alternatives?  Is it a lack of knowledge?  Is it a lack of caring?  There's only one planet and people do matter.  Isn't it time we changed our shopping habits and encouraged others to follow?  If we don't they continue to make millions at our expense and trash our environment.  They continue to make mugs of us all.
(Pretty bag pictured from Not Mass Produced made from vintage materials)

People in Pyjamas

I hang my head in shame!  I confess to having nodded in agreement with Tesco when I first heard that they had banned people from shopping in their pyjamas.  I smugly thought that I had always managed to get dressed before leaving the house, why couldn't they?  Then I thought, hang about, hang about, since when have Tesco ever had any principles?

They have systematically eroded British farming. They have forced thousands of dairy farmers into bankruptcy and off their land by barely paying them enough to cover the cost of production.  They flagrantly squeeze suppliers and bully them.  They have a poor record on animal welfare and are one of the worst companies for having the biggest pay gap between their CEO's and their staff.  They use what a lot of people would call misleading food labelling.  Goods are imported from thousands of miles away without barely a thought for the environment or the conditions of the workers.  They have made many small independent shop keepers go out of business, causing untold misery and ranks of unemployed.  They do all that and then, all of a sudden, we find that they have principles on dress codes?!  Considering their track record, who do they think they are telling us how to dress?

Well, they are already in a very dominant and powerful position taking in £1bn over its counters every week that frankly they can do what they like.  Before long you will be able to shop anywhere you like as long as its Tesco.  Another 600 Express stores are planned by 2015 and they plan to launch bank branches in their stores.  Perhaps they will be telling us next exactly what to buy by checking our spending habits (which they can do every time you hand over the points card) and by knowing how much you earn and what you can afford (by checking your Tesco bank account) and ultimately just taking your money straight from the account without even bothering to ask!

When they've completely conquered the world, how will designer makers/skilled crafters fit into this homogonised world? They won't. Tesco like everything/everyone to be standard/average, that way they are easier to deal with (they would probably like us all to be like Stepford Wives and dress like them!  And not ask awkward questions like how they can sell £2 chickens.)  Makers are the equivalent of bananas that are too curved or green beans that are too long.  They will want them to get a proper job like stacking shelves.

Of course we can be optimistic that there is a vibrant community of designer makers all making wonderful, unique things (for now) but there is still much work to be done convincing shoppers of the dangers of having a high dependency on the likes of Tesco.  We need to communicate the amazing alternatives available before it's too late.  We have already witnessed the danger of what can happen when a handful of very large poorly regulated companies dominate a crucial industry.  Look what happenend in banking and the devastating consequences of that.

Do we really want to live in a world where Tesco staff tell us what we can and can't do, how we must dress, what we must eat, how much we should spend?  No!!!  Give them the thumb and nose salute and take your money elsewhere.  Forgive me for agreeing with them on that one point (a momentary lapse) and help spread the word!  

Go Compare

There's something rather worrying about those Go Compare ads, I mean apart from the annoying jingle and the fact that they're on TV every 5 minutes, and others like them.  The worrying thing is that price is purveyed as the only thing that ever matters.  When it comes to making stuff, production generally takes place in the country with the cheapest labour costs.  Alot of companies have made a fortune using this system.
But after 20 years of unparalleled economic growth and wealth, has society really benefited? Not a lot. Child poverty is worse than ever and not since World War II has the gap between rich and poor been so great. 90% of the worlds wealth is owned by 10% of the people.
Who benefits from this system?  Not the foreign workers.  Even Marks and Spencer were mentioned in the Sunday Times a few days ago accused of paying Sri Lankan workers 25p an hour which even by their standards isn't a living wage.  War on Want said "the grim reality is that none of Britain's high street retailers are doing the right thing by the people who produce their clothes".  Out of sight out of mind?  
UK workers do not benefit.  Those that have work face a diminishing pay packet as they compete in a global employment market and face a burgeoning tax burden in order to pay for unemployment benefits for those put out of work. Talented people that do make some fabulous items struggle to compete on price with 'cheap' imports so their work tends to be less valued too.

The people that do benefit are the chief executives, banks and shareholders. A small elite.  Never before has the gap between employees and chiefs been so high, in some cases by as much as 400 times the amount. The new boss of Marks and Spencer is reputedly getting a £15 million golden hello and salary package in the first year.  New ITV chief Adam Crozier is set to get £16 million over 5 years, after decimating the Post Office.  Sir Terry Leahy of Tesco gets over £9 million a year and so it goes on. Not only do they get paid obscene amounts the extremely wealthy are also adept at avoiding tax leaving a greater burden for the majority.  So what are we to do?  Think before we buy.  Compare the difference between items not just price.  Think who is going to profit from the purchase.  Where possible buy things from small producers.  It helps them make a living, money tends to stay in the locality and they usually pay their taxes.  Better wealth distribution has to be better than the selfish inequitable system in place now that benefits so few.  So, I hate to say it but, go compare! 
Here's one I did earlier:

These corsages are both £10, one is from Rebeccamaryjane at and the other is from  The purple one is made of natural materials of felted merino and angora with vintage mother of pearl buttons and glass beads individually sewn on by hand.  They are made in small quantities by a woman in Yorkshire who enjoys what she does.  The beige one is made of man made material possibly nylon or polyester with plastic beads and faux diamante in the centre.  It doesn't say where it is made, from the site info but I'm guessing China, Thailand or somewhere in Asia.  It is not known who made it or whether they got a decent wage.  It was probably made in a factory churning out thousands of the same and it probably travelled thousands of miles, using up precious fossil fuels, large amounts of packaging and caused a fair amount of pollution on the way for which the tax payer again foots the bill.  The real cost of this one is way more than the £10 you pay over the counter.  Do we really want to be giving so much of our money to the small elite?