“It’s a dog eat dog world. And we want you to eat dog,” said one McDonald’s exec to me in a presentation.
By this, I presume he wanted us, (his advertising agency), to be more ruthless. (Whilst simultaneously failing to see the irony of his comment.)
The reason I mention this petit anecdote is: Moral high-ground.
And how easy it is to take up this seemingly invincible position.
In a recent interview, I was asked if there were any clients I wouldn’t work for.
The first one that sprang to mind was McDonald’s. Not because of what they sell, but because of the disagreeable nature of the people who ran the franchise in Ireland.
Other obvious targets are oil companies and banks.
Bar tobacco, I said no. Because I don’t know enough about any particular company.
Once you start unpicking the stitching of an organisation where do you stop? I don’t know if Heinz bank with an ethical bank that doesn’t invest in arms. Or the kebab meat in my doner is from organic free range cats.
I think it’s lazy and naive to think you are made of a higher morale fabric because you only drink fair trade coffee or bank with the Co-op.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that we throw our morals out the window with our copies of The Guardian. No s’ree. I think it’s important to do the right thing as often as we can.
But sometimes people spout guff about stuff that is wrong when they don’t know the bigger picture.
For example, do you know where the minerals that make your mobile phone heat resistant come from?
Didn’t think so. (And neither did I.)
The following tidbits are from a brilliantly enlightening article I read in The Guardian Weekend supplement by Lucy Siegle called Are you sitting comfortably?
The cassiterite in your mobile phone could quite easily be from illegal Congolese mineral mines which use child labour. When I say mine. It’s more of a hole in the ground barely wide enough to fit a 12 year old down.
Got a real Italian-leather sofa? When was the last time you saw a cattle ranch in Italy? Chances are, the leather is from Brazil. Where illegal state-sponsored deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is taking place.
What about the computer you’re reading this on? If it’s an Apple, (like mine), they’re assembled by a 400,000 strong labour force at the Foxconn factory in China which is in breach of Chinese labour laws. (Apparently, Sony, Dell and HP are equally culpable.)
Got kids? Me too. Bought any toys made by: Mattel (Barbie); Lego; Disney or Hasbro? I know I have.
According to Greenpeace, their toy packaging is made from tropical hardwood fibres from protected Indonesian forests.
The article goes on to talk about coffee; cashmere; cotton; denim and flatscreen TVs.
Of course I’m not saying we shouldn’t give a hoot because we don’t know where stuff comes from. Or that we should remain silent when we do.
I just think it’s easy for the middle-classes to get all holier-than-thou about the stuff that makes the headlines when they’re sipping their Columbian Latte. But it’s quite a bit harder to live your life by these self-imposed morals once you start digging. (Metaphorically of course, I wouldn’t advocate getting someone under the age of 16 to do it for you.)
A bit more transparency on where products, ingredients, materials etc are sourced on packaging would be a good place to start. But we would need government legislation to force companies into doing this.
Basically, you key in the type of lifestyle you have and it calculates approximately how many slaves you have working for you around the world. You can then lobby the powers that be about it.
Apparently I have 88.
Two fat ladies. (They do the cleaning on Thursdays.)
Unlike my wife, who only has one.