When shopping ethically and consciously, knowing that workers in the supply chain are treated fairly is incredibly important. ‘Fair’ however is subjective and it’s very hard to gauge whether a company treats its workers to your personal standards and values. It’s unfortunate that we do have to be aware of these things and that people all over the world are still being exploited so that others can have inexpensive products but by shopping consciously and ethically we can hopefully start pushing back for a change and ensuring that everyone can lead a fulfilling life.
Minimum wages have been introduced into most countries around the world. This wage is supposed to be the absolute minimum someone requires to support themselves and their families with clothing, food, shelter and other necessities. This amount is usually decided by governments and labour and business organizations and it’s based on a complicated set of figures. However, we have all seen news articles and other media that have outlined that even with minimum wages people often still have financial troubles even with making their country or city’s minimum wage. The United States is a perfect example of this. In many places, the minimum wage is only around $8 per hour and factoring in food and transportation and housing many people have to work multiple jobs just to keep their families afloat. There are also still countries that for a plethora of different reasons don’t actually have a minimum wage.
Living wage on the other hand is something that has a much more flexible definition and relies on individual organizations to ensure that their workers are compensated fairly and effectively. The thought behind living wages is that they should not only provide the necessities but also for people to be able to fill their lives with fun things and also be able to save for emergencies and retirement. This should mean that the Living wage is at it slowest on par with minimum wage if the country in question has a sufficient wage in place but most likely this means that this will be higher than minimum wage by a seemingly significant margin.
As a consumer, this may mean that you will pay more for your products as manufacturers and brands are directly increasing their cost of production and operations. As a conscious consumer, it means that you need to be asking questions when you are looking to purchase something and holding companies responsible for the standard of living they set for their staff.
As a business owner, this means doing additional research into your current wages, local cost of living and also additional research into your suppliers and partners. This may also mean increasing your prices to ensure that everyone involved in your business has the opportunity to lead a fulfilling life.
Our current global market has depended on cheap labour and low prices. ‘Wealthy’ countries in the west have been able to grow and thrive because of the exploitation of people and resources. This has been occurring for hundreds of years and is blatantly still present today. Early Europeans sailed to Africa and the Americas for minerals, spices, crops and human beings and today companies and governments use trade negotiations to keep other countries’ labour costs low and can continue to ‘legally’ exploit their people and resources. As citizens, consumers and human beings with a conscience we have to say that this is enough. We will no longer sit idly by and let this happen. We need to ask questions, participate in elections and vote in people who have solid morals and values, to reach out to our government officials when we don’t agree with legislation or actions, to boycott companies that are known to use poor labour and environmental practices. As an individual, it may seem daunting or hopeless but if we all join together and ensure that everyone is paid fairly, and our environment is protected, it is something that can be accomplished. There is more than enough wealth in this world to go around.
If you want to learn more about Living Wages we have gathered some helpful articles:
* All products on SAM & LANCE are from companies and brands that pay their staff living wages. *