Blackspot

Ethical Soles

Why Greenwashing is a threat to positive change.

The marketing calculus is simple. You label a product ‘green’ or ‘ethical’ and sales go up, as conscientious consumers make what they believe to be the responsible choice, even if it happens to cost a little bit more. Marketers know very well that you don’t have the time or the resources to check their claims against the facts. The temptation to deceive is strong, the chances of getting caught not very high.

Take No Sweat shoes, for example. The name captures the essence of the brand: No Sweat shoes are, ostensibly, sweatshop free. Almost all shoes are made in sweatshops these days, and if you have a problem with that, there are very few alternatives. Blackspot is one. Then there are brands like No Sweat, Ethletic Sneakers, Green Shoes, and Worn Again. No Sweat founder, Adam Neiman, vigorously promoted his shoes as an ethical alternative, and they have been profiled in various green-living publications, trade-shows, and websites.

Few bother to check the claims being made by companies like No Sweat, but let’s say for the sake of argument that you are an extraordinarily conscientious consumer. You go to their website, and read up on them. You’re comforted by what you see. There’s a lot of copy about empowering the workers and changing the world. You dig a little deeper, and read that No Sweat has sent independent auditors to their production facility, and has even published a big fat report online. What more could you ask?

But then you do what almost no one would do. You actually read that long, dull auditors’ report. It’s all about No Sweat’s shoe factory in Indonesia. What you uncover is astonishing. There, buried in the back, are the results of a survey given to the workers of the factory. Here’s the fine print, reproduced verbatim:

Question 2: Have you ever had a bad experience at work, like forced labor or underpayment of wages?

[The numbers indicate number of employees responding, and not percentages]
Yes: 39
No: 11

Question 4: If yes, did you ask for help from the union, SPSI?
Yes: 28
No: 20
No answer: 2

Question 6: If you add up your wages, wage supplements (food, Lebaran bonus), and your level of satisfaction at work, do you think you are paid fairly?
Yes: 8
No: 42

Question 9: Is the union an effective advocate for a better work environment, better wages and wage supplements, and improved working conditions?
Very helpful: 2
Helpful: 6
Useless: 30
No comment: 12

Question 10: What is the most accurate description of your experience at work?
Positive and friendly: 6
Fair – no complaints: 7
Unpleasant (pressured to work faster or disrespectful treatment from supervisors): 37

No Sweat appears to be guilty of a kind of greenwashing. In another section of the report under the rubric of “Recommendations for No Sweat” the independent auditors concluded: “PT Bata is no worse, and is probably better, than many other factories in the footwear industry in Indonesia.” Not quite what you would expect from a company that has based its entire brand and marketing strategy on its claim that it does not use the same sweatshops that big corporate shoe companies use.

Greenwashing is rampant these days across many industries. Big companies like Shell Oil, Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, and General Electric have engaged in multi-million-dollar greenwashing marketing campaigns. Countless smaller businesses have also given in to the temptation to boost profits with false or misleading claims. Garbled messages hamper our ability to communicate. Only the vigilance of individual consumers can prevent the “green” and “ethical” labels from becoming so debased as to be completely useless in helping us make intelligent choices.

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Comments on the article “Ethical Soles”

Displaying 1 - 10 of 14

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Anonymous

Being Green is cool.

Bandwagon may resume!

It's all the same thing, now people want to get rid of bags now. Hello, it isn't the stores fault you don't know how to reuse your stuff because you are damn lazy. At our house all the plastic bags get reused (for the dogs dodo for example) or recycled. And Yes, you can recycle them. Or you can easily take them into the store next time you go, instead of trying to take your 30pairs of socks out by yourself because you think you're doing the world good.

Soon people will start saying eating meat is wrong. Crazy.

Anonymous

Being Green is cool.

Bandwagon may resume!

It's all the same thing, now people want to get rid of bags now. Hello, it isn't the stores fault you don't know how to reuse your stuff because you are damn lazy. At our house all the plastic bags get reused (for the dogs dodo for example) or recycled. And Yes, you can recycle them. Or you can easily take them into the store next time you go, instead of trying to take your 30pairs of socks out by yourself because you think you're doing the world good.

Soon people will start saying eating meat is wrong. Crazy.

Matt

The issue isn't simply recyclability, it's a matter of biodegradability. You can give your old shoes to your dog to use as a toy... it's not going to help the planet any more.

As for meat; meat production is directly accountable for more global warming gas emissions than every vehicle on the planet. So yes, eating meat is wrong.

Matt

The issue isn't simply recyclability, it's a matter of biodegradability. You can give your old shoes to your dog to use as a toy... it's not going to help the planet any more.

As for meat; meat production is directly accountable for more global warming gas emissions than every vehicle on the planet. So yes, eating meat is wrong.

Anonymous

Give these questions to someone that works at McDonald, Burger King, Taco bell, etc. here in the USA and I am willing to bet you would get the same results. These are drone work jobs with drone work wages. Few people think they earn enough in those jobs.

To get true facts, visit the factory in person, unannounced.

Anonymous

Give these questions to someone that works at McDonald, Burger King, Taco bell, etc. here in the USA and I am willing to bet you would get the same results. These are drone work jobs with drone work wages. Few people think they earn enough in those jobs.

To get true facts, visit the factory in person, unannounced.

Anonymous

The Blackspot Brand... any better? The same language is used by those advertising other brands. Hard to know who is guilty of greenwashing and who isn't!

Anonymous

The Blackspot Brand... any better? The same language is used by those advertising other brands. Hard to know who is guilty of greenwashing and who isn't!

Anonymous

Eating meat is wrong because most of the meat in North America comes from factory farms, which are disgusting and inhumane and represent the stunded spiritual growth experianced by our people, (food=life, life should be respected, food should be respected not expected, how society treats it's smallest voiceless members (animals) is a mirror to how one feels about themselves, so people with whom we share our world that are not taking the time to wake up and open their eyes are ruining the beautiful potential of life that many of us are thirsting to experience. Like it or not we are all in this together, what affects the cows affects the land, affects the water, affects YOU affects ME) Agricultural practices these days use like 80% or something of the earths available fresh ground water resources and 12 times the amount of vegetable grain fit for human comsumption. I personally dont eat meet, but Most of us have kind of evolved in a way that we do need animal product in our diet (b12, some people need more varied protien source than others ect.) People don't need to eat as much meat as they do and most everyone doesnot deserve the meat they eat as most everyone does not make the true connection that some peaceful creature endured a miserable life and suffered a probably horrific death so you could eat half a fatty antibiotic (antibiotic is another thing: Please read Animal Factories by Peter Singer) injected steak. We can all fight over what is rightaction or wrong action till the world ends but nothing you do will matter in the least if you cannot learn to see every other person and every living creature as a reflection of your self. And calling an attempt to care about our world as a bandwagon or a trend is really a pet peve of mine because there really should be no other way. Yes it's sad but true that alot of people only pretend to care, for some reason that I cannot seem to see the point of, maybe it's an arrogance and an insecurity thing, we have all be raised ina really fucked up system by other insecure and ignorant people so who know what plethora of nerosis anyone can suffer from... ANYWAYS, If you think about it we are like 8 bilion people standing here together on a little tiny blue marble whirling through space. Kind of makes the concept of a "trend" or bandwagon seem rather a silly concept to focus your attention on. Kind of makes arguing and basing a life on stockin piling stinky dirty paper scraps with ugly faces and secret symbols on them (money!) kind of a waste of time (off topic I know).There is just SO MUCH happening it's kind of hard to really know what to do about anything. I am really happy that I don't have to face a reality of forced sweatshop labour and my heart goes out to all those who do. How can one decied what really and truly matters in this big dirty fuckin mess we've made. Oh shit, I don't remember what my point was. Yeah.... have a nice day.
One Love c

Anonymous

Eating meat is wrong because most of the meat in North America comes from factory farms, which are disgusting and inhumane and represent the stunded spiritual growth experianced by our people, (food=life, life should be respected, food should be respected not expected, how society treats it's smallest voiceless members (animals) is a mirror to how one feels about themselves, so people with whom we share our world that are not taking the time to wake up and open their eyes are ruining the beautiful potential of life that many of us are thirsting to experience. Like it or not we are all in this together, what affects the cows affects the land, affects the water, affects YOU affects ME) Agricultural practices these days use like 80% or something of the earths available fresh ground water resources and 12 times the amount of vegetable grain fit for human comsumption. I personally dont eat meet, but Most of us have kind of evolved in a way that we do need animal product in our diet (b12, some people need more varied protien source than others ect.) People don't need to eat as much meat as they do and most everyone doesnot deserve the meat they eat as most everyone does not make the true connection that some peaceful creature endured a miserable life and suffered a probably horrific death so you could eat half a fatty antibiotic (antibiotic is another thing: Please read Animal Factories by Peter Singer) injected steak. We can all fight over what is rightaction or wrong action till the world ends but nothing you do will matter in the least if you cannot learn to see every other person and every living creature as a reflection of your self. And calling an attempt to care about our world as a bandwagon or a trend is really a pet peve of mine because there really should be no other way. Yes it's sad but true that alot of people only pretend to care, for some reason that I cannot seem to see the point of, maybe it's an arrogance and an insecurity thing, we have all be raised ina really fucked up system by other insecure and ignorant people so who know what plethora of nerosis anyone can suffer from... ANYWAYS, If you think about it we are like 8 bilion people standing here together on a little tiny blue marble whirling through space. Kind of makes the concept of a "trend" or bandwagon seem rather a silly concept to focus your attention on. Kind of makes arguing and basing a life on stockin piling stinky dirty paper scraps with ugly faces and secret symbols on them (money!) kind of a waste of time (off topic I know).There is just SO MUCH happening it's kind of hard to really know what to do about anything. I am really happy that I don't have to face a reality of forced sweatshop labour and my heart goes out to all those who do. How can one decied what really and truly matters in this big dirty fuckin mess we've made. Oh shit, I don't remember what my point was. Yeah.... have a nice day.
One Love c

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