My idea is to use government power to restrict advertising to those corporations and associated products which meet ethical standards in social and environmental responsibility.
Criteria for corporations to advertise their products (by television, radio, public transport, outdoor and pamphlet advertising) include: 1. Full corporate transparency, including leading or detailed reporting level for sustainability factors, and transparent about flows of money (including mother corporation if applicable), which is verified by an external party 2. Website selling products show cradle-to-grave story of their product’s lifespan, also verified by an external party 3. Meeting certain criteria in relation to corporate social responsibility and community relationships (policies, worker conditions, auditing and supplier relationships, and environmental impacts) 4. For individual products: a clean safety record, regarding both consumers and workers 5. Advertised food products and food services, such as fast food services, must meet strict health guidelines 6. No advertising to be targeted at children
Labelling: 1) Product labelling (including pamphlet advertising) should display ethical star rating 2) Food which does not meet health standards should have only plain black and white labeling
Criteria for advertising becomes more stringent over the five-year period, giving willing companies the chance to adjust to new measures.
The government could also ‘showcase’ products that achieve the highest grading, or are innovative in sustainability/environmental management, by allowing free spaces in public transport and outdoor billboards. For example, they could inform corporations that the first to have a smart phone with a 10-year warranty and inbuilt hardware updating will be freely displayed on public billboards around the city. This provides incentive to corporations to ‘green up’, and makes ethical products more of a selling point for corporations. It also allows corporations who have only ethical products to get the attention they deserve, and shine in the public eye. This effect would be increased by minimising billboards in the city, and replacing many of them with local art displays, community boards, local photographers work, etc.
Though it is our consumer choices which drive corporations, frequently these choices are swayed by advertisements which shout over quality and ethical products, alongside consumer research and rational decision making. The result is that we are often inadvertently fuelling corporations which may have little concern for the environment, workers’ rights, and the quality and safety of their products, while we may be ignoring those who do.
To turn this around, I propose that governments restrict advertising to corporations and associated products and services which meet increasingly higher ethical standards. This rating system will be based on existing research (see Choice, Greenpeace: http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-you-can-do/Consumer-guides/, Baptist-Aid: http://www.baptistworldaid.org.au/assets/Be-Fair-Section/FashionReport.pdf, Cradle to Cradle Certified, Friends of the Earth (The Good Shopping Guide), and others.)