Sunday, September 28, 2008

What about trade justice?

Trade justice - it's an interesting issue because it directly affects our thinking about the world and how we view money. The ethics of business, the thought with which we use our money and the places we put it say something about us and the way we interact with the world. It's one that as cropped up a number of times, so for example in the comments following this post on bookshops, I debate with fellow blogger Hugh Bourne whether you putting your money with godless Amazon is better than putting it with Wesley Owen who (like Amazon) sell Joel Osteen and the like...for a bigger debate on it head over to Tim Challies here

That's just a minor example, but it's relevant. I don't put my money with known arms dealers (or banks that lend them money), or buy from companies that I know are involved in various dubious moral issues but there are plenty of companies that I freely give my pounds and I haven't the faintest clue to their ethcis. Amazon sell porn and wicca should I buy from them? On the other hand there are plenty of companies that exploit the poorest people on the planet in the way they do business -from coffee to cotton, tea to timber - the poor lose out. Should I buy from them? Or those that have environmentally destructive practices? What sort of life would I live if I refused to buy from them all? Or perhaps another way of framing the question, is what sort of world would we have if we did refuse?

In the age of the consumer perhaps the most powerful choice we have, arguably more significant even than your vote, is the choice we make with our money. As a friend of mine said,
"picture every pound you have as a vote. As you spend your money, what kind of world are you voting for? Money saved by living frugally or refusing unethical purchases doesn’t simply disappear (unless you hide it under a mattress); instead you can invest it somewhere else – in a company that doesn’t encourage child labour, for instance."

I'd like to think that I vote for a world whose values most closely reflect the kingdom I believe in, and perhaps if even the 6 million Christians in the UK spent more wisely, the businesses that exist or don't would change.

There are better experts than me on trade justice or even fair trade - The Trade Justice Movement for example, or for blogs try my friend Jeremy over at Make Wealth History and follow some of the many links you find there.


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