Everyone I know who continues to do what they love has had to say "forget it" to the money at least once. If you do anything long enough you may have to say it more than once. The funny thing about all this is that the people around us keep telling us that it's some sort of sacrifice to put happiness before money. Yet it isn't the people doing what they love that are making the sacrifice. No. Seems to me that the ultimate sacrifice is when you settle for an uninspiring life just because everybody else if doing it.
People's willingness to sacrifice dreams at the alter of money hit me in the face like a wet carp this week.
I had a friend email me to say he might like to work at Made Movement, the marketing agency I helped get going about a year ago that is dedicated to the resurgence in American Manufacturing. He'd read that we'd had an amazingly successful first year and it piqued his interest.
He said he really wanted to get back into advertising to "work with companies hell bent on doing good things."What he was doing now "pays well" but wasn't exiting. I wrote back that I wasn't the person who made decisions around hiring but I'd be happy to make an introduction and vouch for him. And I went on to add that it was doubtful that they could match his big-time salary.
His next email declared that if his salary requirements were a problem then now was not the time for an introduction. It was sort of shocking to me since we never even spoke about any actual figures. Just the idea of less money put him right back into that uninspiring job.
It made my heart ache.
In wonderful contrast is this post from Catie Pavilack was sent to me by her dad. She's a college kid who is clearly questioning the conventional wisdom and in the last line of her post she sums it up nicely, "Deep down we know our passions, it's just whether we choose to ignore them or not."
The collapse and fire in that Cambodian factory last week makes me feel like I'm stuck in some sort of unending loop. Like we're all somehow doomed to play out the same scenario over and over like in the movie Groundhog Day. I mean we're still finding bodies in the Bangladesh factory collapse. And it's not like we had even come to grips with suicides and unsafe conditions in the Foxconn factories that make the iPhone. Before that, weren't we still getting over learning about lead paint in toys from China? Oh, And not long before that we had the tragic news that our running shoes were being made by little kids.
Each time we were assured that this was an anomaly and that it would all be cleaned up so we could go back to feeling good about our $5 t-shirts. Well, after ten years of trying to manage factories that are half a world away, it's safe to say it's not working. Now the big brands are scrambling to come to some policy or accord that can ease our minds. Walmart, Target, GAP, and more are all considering some label that will allow us to stop being such worrywarts and get back to shopping.
So what's the app?
Somewhere between lead-painted toys and the nets being installed under the windows at Foxconn to catch suicidal workers, I started to think about this app. Some way that I could scan to find out if children were put to work to make my pants. Maybe take a picture and make sure that nobody was exploited to make my running shoes. Search to know that some river wasn't treated like an open sewer to make my iPhone case. That a dirty coal power plant didn't rain down mercury into the rivers and ocean and the tuna fish my kids eat. That excessive CO2 wasn't used to ship something around the world three times to produce it.
When I figured out this already existed, and I'd been ignoring it, I felt like a fool.
Made In America. That's the brand that guarantees the stuff we buy is made to the standards in safe and clean manufacturing that we believe in. And actually, you don't need a fancy app. You don't even need to scan anything. Just remember to check the label. Oh, and it has this additional benefit of creating middle class jobs. The kind we need more of right now.
Me and most of my generation was sold on and fully bought into the outsourcing idea. And the campaign to buy American fell on deaf ears. Keep your money in the economy, they said. "How about I buy something cheaper and imported, and I keep the money in my pocket?" I said back. It breaks my heart to realize how wrong we got it. And how far down this road we had to get to realize that making things is bigger than just finding the cheapest labor on the face of the earth.
Many people say it is too late. It's never too late. It's hard to even give this sort of fatalistic whining the justification of a response but here goes: Let me take on the arguments one by one.
1) "American-made stuff is too expensive."
It's certainly true that American-made goods are often more expensive. But in some cases there is actually no difference. That being said, even in cases when it is more expensive, isn't it worth looking a little closer at the real "costs"? I've been on this kick long enough to realize there is a reason that American-made goods are so coveted in other countries. We make solid, long-lasting products. We've gotten used to disposable goods, but if something last three times as long and costs twice as much it's actually a better value. That may not appeal to everybody, but as my friends father used to tell him, "We're too poor to by crap."
Additionally, what are the hidden cost of buying that 5 dollar t-shirt? One hidden cost is that we send more jobs overseas. You might not know anybody that works in manufacturing but maybe you know a barber. Manufacturing jobs that leave take with them the jobs that would have supported that worker. The barber, the insurance salesman, the car dealer, the clerk at the shoe store, etc. You lose half of an additional job for every factory job that goes abroad. That's one and a half jobs. Because of this, bringing those factory jobs back provides a bigger boost to the economy than any other kind of job.
If we forget the quality and the American jobs, we are still left with the question of exploitation. Essentially, how much would you pay to know that the goods you buy were not created in unsafe conditions by workers unfairly compensated? For many, the answer is that we would prefer to pay more. And the dirty truth is that by the time the factories and wages in Bangledesh, Cambodia, and even China are up to our standards it won't be any cheaper to make things abroad. The system only works if people are exploited. The system only works if we accept the idea that as long as it's cheap we really don't care who pays.
Finally, there's the hidden cost to the environment that overseas production creates. There is no environmental oversight and so factories can and do pour toxins straight into the rivers and the air. Pretty soon those pollutants are everybody's problem because they don't stay where they're dumped. Coal power has fouled the air quality in China but it has an effect on all of us. As emissions pour into the atmosphere untreated and unscrubbed it not only carries CO2 that warms our entire planet but it's also the reason you don't want to eat too much fish anymore. Yep, that mercury in fish is predominately from coal and those emissions are predominately from China. It goes up and comes back down as rain into the rivers and oceans where fish can't help but ingest it.
2) "It's a global marketplace and labor shifts to the cheapest place it can be found."
The argument goes on to say that this is good news, too, because America doesn't want to be part of making things anymore. We will think of things and other people will make them. This certainly is the path we've been on and if you can get one of those "thinking up things" jobs then this might work out, at least to a point. I'd be more confident in this plan if America led the world in high school math and science scores. Or really in any scores. But based on our education system and all those people moving into the job world, I think we're going to need some "making" jobs, too.
We can look around right now and see that this plan makes money for the top 1% and it produces McJobs for the rest. Literally. It's now estimated that 1 in 8 Americans has worked at McDonald's.
The wealthiest Americans can certainly survive the shift of all the middle class jobs to other countries so they've been selling this idea hard for a long time. But back here on planet reality, the loss of the making jobs has stripped out the middle class and created an America where the gap between the classes is the largest it's been since 1929. So even if you're rich and you have a great "thinking up" job you would be wise to remember we all rely on the middle class to keep the economy humming. Otherwise, you might find yourself poor overnight and leaping out of a Wall street window.
We can also look at an example of what happens when you DON'T treat labor as a commodity. Germany has protected, and invested in their domestic manufacturing during the same period we embraced NAFTA and shifted manufacturing to the lowest bidder. Today, Germany is the world's second largest exporter behind China with a population less than 1/3 of the US. Providing lots of good "thinking up" jobs as well as good middle class jobs. They've proven that manufacturing has an important and vibrant place in a first world economy.
3) "We've lost the know how."
This argument states we've gone so long down this road we can't go back. This one is hardly worth the time, but it's also easy to just cite some examples. Many consumer goods are no longer made here. But the idea that these are too complicated is silly. The truth is that if you want something really complicated made you make it here. Need a Jet engine or some aerospace components? Chances are you'll be shopping for a manufacturer in the US. With less complicated consumer electronics much of it is made in China. But in 2002, every Apple product was still made here and Google just announced they will be making their Google glasses here. Need an example in the more mundane world of cut and sew? American Apparel should suffice.
My wife is used to my going on about some issue or another, but she's rock solid and hard to rattle. She listened to me but in her heart of hearts she believed that most of the things she bought were made here. Then one day she went into her closet to look through the tags on her clothes just to make double sure. At first she was surprised to find that a lot of the tags she first turned over were from exotic locations. Her money had gone, almost exclusively, to support labor practices and environmental policies that were either lax or non-existent. Angry that this fashion industry she loves and is built on being cute was anything but cute in reality. She wasn't willing to give up on the idea of cuteness without a fight. So she did something completely out of character for this incredibly shy person. She started a style blog dedicated to finding American-made fashion and showing how you can rock it every day. It's called Mrs. American Made and the kids and I have been recruited as photographers. We gripe a bit about it when it's picture time and there's a foot of snow on the ground, but the truth is we are super proud and a year later her closet is proof we can all make a difference.
Top reason to use the Made in America "app"
A. To be patriotic.
B. To rebuild the American economy and create jobs.
C. To keep toxins and pollutants out of our water and air.
D. To guarantee nobody died making my stuff.
E. All of the above.
Oh, and if you absolutley need an app to do anything (you know who you are), try this.
We humans are prone to odd behaviors. But there are few as absurd as flicking cigarette butts onto the ground, right where we live, work and play. What the butt?
Fact is, cigarette butts aren't disposed of properly 65 percent of the time, which makes them the most frequently littered item on the planet. And they hold the title for #1 littered item on our beaches and waterways here in the US.
But the worst part is we've all become so used to this visual stain on our environment that we almost accept it. How did tossing these plastic pieces of litter on the ground become such acceptable behavior?
Working with Legacy and Leave No Trace we set out to ignite a cultural shift. A shift that begins with a new brand for cigarette butts. A brand that's poisonous, invasive and has no business being flicked into our public spaces.
Turns out rebranding butts was as simple as telling the rest of their story. According to Tohmas E. Novotny, aprofessor of global health at San Diego State University, littered butts leach measurable amounts of cadmium, arsenic, lead, nicotine and other toxic chemicals. They’re literally toxic waste.
In fact a single cigarette butt in a liter of water containing minnows is toxic enough to kill half of the fish within 96 hours, according to an experiment Professor Novotny helped conduct. Dead fish don’t lie, they float.
So please share this PSA and help us rebrand cigarette butts as the tiny toxic waste sites that they are. It’s time to rethink butts folks – what they are and where they go. If you don't think it's a problem just dare to look under your feet tomorrow.
- Contributed by Adam Butler & Ronny Northrop
The chairs did it. It makes such perfect sense, but it has been so hard to see. We are all suddenly sitting too much because chairs are everywhere. And it's obviously some sort of chair conspiracy to make us fat.
So, stay safe and have a Coke, but for God's sake don't sit down. Because if you do, that chair you're in will probably magically grow your butt. Chairs have been commonplace since the 1500s so this ability to make us rotund must be a recent development in the chair arsenal. Chairs are so sneaky! For over five hundred years the chair has silently waited for the perfect time to strike. Luring us in with new variations. The couch. The La-Z-boy. The Love-seat. And the dreaded Chair-and-half. We lived in harmony for half of a millenium. No obesity epidemic in site. But the chairs were patient in their plan to make us round.
When our diets became swollen with processed sugars the chairs knew the time was right. They could make us fat and everybody would blame totally innocent things like sugary drinks just because they were contributing the largest portion of calories to the average American diet. It was genius on the part of the chairs. But, unfortunately, for those sinister stools, sofas and thrones, the super-sleuths at Coke sniffed out their diabolical plan and cast the unflinching light of truth on it for all the world to see. This recent Coke documentary is an important piece of film-making that anybody who cares about real answers to health needs to see.
In all seriousness, as I sit here I have a great idea for a chair. Coke should take a seat. Take a seat on the whole obesity issue and let society work it out without the corporate meddling and confusion. They are understanably incapable of having an unbiased opinion so they should stop standing up for the overconsumption of sugar. Dear Coke, sit this one out.
Corporations have an incredible influence on the world we live in, and that's given them free reign to pollute, collude and mislead us, but advances in technology are rapidly making them accountable not just to shareholders, but to everyone. We have constant access to the truth about the products we use and the ethics of the companies behind them, and big brands are realizing that looking great isn't enough. It's time to actually be great. The Naked Brand is a story about how corporations can help save the planet one small step at a time. It's an introduction to a bright new future where companies tell the truth and work hard to create better products and a better planet. That’s how I met Alex Bogusky. As the founder of Common, one of his chief initiatives is to implement a comprehensive sense of corporate transparency. In fact, his team at Common broadcasts their board meetings live online, so their customers can follow their discussions point by point, and hopefully turn complaints and customer suggestions into a conversation. Alex was an inspiration throughout the entire production process, and you can find out more about the film and Alex’s goal at Common by visiting www.thenakedbrand.com.
One of my favorite examples of transparency in The Naked Brand is Patagonia. They’ve taken a completely innovative approach to transparency, and it’s paying off big-time. On their homepage, they advocate their beloved Common Threads Initiative, a campaign that strongly urges consumers to buy less and reuse their clothing, promoting responsible, sustainable business. In addition, they’ve introduced The Footprint Chronicles, which itemizes the production process of every Patagonia item, providing customers with a clear view of their product and the effect its production has on the environment. In 2011 they even ran an ad in the New York Times that said “Don’t Buy This Jacket”, demonstrating their passionate commitment to environmental sustainability.
The Naked Brand emphasizes three benefits of running a sustainable, transparent business like Patagonia. First, it offers an immense benefit to the health of our planet, the one all of us share and love so dearly. Second, it provides customers with a more honest representation of corporate America and thus creates an opportunity to make better products that accurately reflect the customer. Third, and most importantly, sustainable and transparent business is hugely profitable. Consumers today have access to tons of information, and corporations are no exception. Customers cannot be fooled anymore, so it’s time to be great. The best businesses – those that are honest to consumers, responsible for the planet and relentlessly transparent – will be rewarded with happy customers and tons and tons of money. And ultimately, businesses like that will most certainly make the world a much better place.
Jeff Rosenblum, www.thenakedbrand.com follow me on twitter @JRQuestus / www.questus.com
It seems like a lot of companies want you to believe their products are made in the USA, without all the fuss of actually making anything here. These attempts are elevating the lowly tag from basic information to high comedy. SNL writers couldn't have done any better. So snap a photo of a lame American-made label. they're not hard to find. The funniest, most outlandish, entries will be rewarded with quality Made In USA products, courtesy of Made Collection.
Fearless Brands is a column dedicated to identifying and celebrating brands that are taking a stand, challenging the status quo, and working to build a better future. In other words, brands acting fearlessly. This is not a sponsored column, and brands do not pay to appear here. Do you know a fearless brand? Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When it comes to socially responsible brands, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s has long been a poster-child. They strive for a sustainable supply chain and have found a way to convert dairy waste into energy. In October 2012, they officially became a certified B-corp. During the recent election season, they spoke out for transparency in corporate political donations.
Now, they’re joining the GMO fray, with a recent news release stating the company’s support for GMO labeling.
Who They Are
Founded in 1978 by a couple of hippies in Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s sells premium ice cream with milk and cream sourced from family farmers. Due to their progressive corporate mission and emphasis on using business as a force for peace, sustainability, and social good, the company been held up many times as a model for corporate social responsibility.
Why They’re Fearless
Ben & Jerry’s mission is ambitious and far-reaching. It’s so impressive, in fact, that it’s worth publishing in full:
We have a progressive, nonpartisan social mission that seeks to meet human needs and eliminate injustices in our local, national and international communities by integrating these concerns into our day-to-day business activities. Our focus is on children and families, the environment and sustainable agriculture on family farms.
- Capitalism and the wealth it produces do not create opportunity for everyone equally. We recognize that the gap between the rich and the poor is wider than at any time since the 1920’s. We strive to create economic opportunities for those who have been denied them and to advance new models of economic justice that are sustainable and replicable.
- By definition, the manufacturing of products creates waste. We strive to minimize our negative impact on the environment.
- The growing of food is overly reliant on the use of toxic chemicals and other methods that are unsustainable. We support sustainable and safe methods of food production that reduce environmental degradation, maintain the productivity of the land over time, and support the economic viability of family farms and rural communities.
- We seek and support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice. We believe government resources are more productively used in meeting human needs than in building and maintaining weapons systems.
- We strive to show a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.
The Lesson for Brands
It’s one thing to write a mission statement connecting your business to something greater than itself. Mission statements make employees and customers feel good and are great for brand perception. It’s another thing entirely, however, to take a stand in the name of that mission, especially when it means investing in things (like reducing waste) with no immediate payout, standing up for consumer rights and transparency (even when you benefit from an unfair status quo) or anything else that might affect short-term profits.
Ben & Jerry’s understands that in the 21st-century, we can no longer treat business as a self-enclosed entity, operating according to rules and frameworks that are somehow separate from the rest of society.
Much has been made of corporate America’s propensity for internalizing the fruits of doing business while socializing the costs. Ben & Jerry’s, by contrast, is dedicated to what they call “linked prosperity”, which essentially recognizes the possibility that business can and should be a powerful force for the betterment of society.
On top of it all, they make pretty good ice cream, too.