Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I'm sure you've read The Lorax by Dr Seuss. Where a clever little chap chops down all the truffula trees in order to make thneeds. Wonderfully bright truffula trees that help support a whole range of other plants and animals - milled to provide city folk with thneeds: "Its a shirt. Its a sock. Its a glove. Its a hat. But it has other uses. Yes, far beyond that..."

Its the classic case of where an entrepreneur sees a gap in the market and makes a pile of money by filling it. And as we all know, thats how our capitalist western economy works. And its a very good thing. When - and ONLY when - all cost are reflected in the price of goods
. In The Lorax, production of the thneed caused damage to the local environment. But nobody local wore a thneed - those who used the thneed were not directly impacted by the production process of their thneed.

All impact has either a benefit or a cost. Take industrial pollution of waterways: it has an indirect cost in the loss of biodiversity (eg. less fish impacts the livelihood of downstream fishing-people, and the area is no longer suitable for recreation), it will also have a direct cost (eg. the waterway supplies a town with drinking water and the cost of treating the water is borne by the local authority). Today we are generally more aware of theses processes, but still, all impacts are rarely priced into the products we buy. If impacts are priced in, the product may become expensive in relation to its competition.

To illustrate, lets modify the thneed example: assume there are no laws against putting dirty water into the river. One producer producing in accordance with The Lorax story is competing with another producer located on the other side of the same river, each using the same technology, BUT one plant is modified in order to clean the water used during production before feeding it back into the river. While the "dirty water producer" boxes along as usual, t
he "clean water producer" has spent money on technology and equipment to clean the water. Due to higher cost of production for a "clean water thneed" its price on the store shelf will be greater than the "dirty water thneed". The products are the same. So you buy the cheaper one.

Unfair? Hell yes! Cue ShoppingFix ( ShoppingFix recognises that the "clean water thneed" is "better". ShoppingFix ensures that the public can make an informed decision on which thneed is "better". The seller of the "clean water thneed", as a ShoppingFix retailer, is recognised as a supporter of "better" production. Because ShoppingFix has agreed a set of sustainability standards with the retailer, ShoppingFix members - shoppers like you and me - have the means to make a "fair" shopping decision without having to spend hours doing research.

ShoppingFix is all about building a community of concerned shoppers and businesses. ShoppingFix shoppers - using their collective purchasing power - can help the seller of the
"clean water thneed". How? Firstly, more sales of "clean water thneeds" may warrant a lower price, and secondly, falling market share for the "dirty water producer" will result in the need to "follow the lead of the clean water thneed". Its a classic case where THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT and the dirty business is forced - by THE POWER OF THE MARKET - to alter the way they do business.

And that my friends, is the logic of ShoppingFix ( We are all smart enough to make the right decisions as individual consumers, but as a group we can make a more effective difference. POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

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