Monsanto has self-proclaimed itself as a “sustainable agricultural company”. Through my research thus far, I have found many contradicting events that prove otherwise, but the issues causing the events go further than just Monsanto. The system is set up so large corporations can get away with greed and power. This greed and power is so influential it has infiltrated our very own government. In many ways, it has deepened my concern for big business. On the other hand, my research has reaffirmed my belief that business holds the key to solving many of the world’s problems. I researched innovative farming practices that help combat industrial agriculture and unsustainable farming, and brands that promote fair labor and sustainable supply chain management. I will tackle the common misconceptions about sustainable farming and manufacturing that will hopefully provide greater insight into current innovative substitutes, trends and practices.
I have blogged about Monsanto’s strict patent laws and the environmental and health risks associated with their products. As I briefly mentioned in my latest post, there are many countries that have banned GM crops and Monsanto. Why hasn’t America? Because there is simply too much money in GM crops. Our population is in high demand of food and has become largely dependent on industrial agriculture mainly because it can supply vast amounts of food rather quickly compared to alternative methods. These new alternative practices are still rather considered foreign concepts to most of the public but can also pose as a large problem because most people don’t like to stray off the traditional style of doing things, especially when that thing is farming and is a symbol to so many hardworking Americans. One practice I want to highlight is urban farming. Urban farming has many advantages, it can reduce our land usage, provide local crops to high-populated urban areas, and eliminate the need for preservatives and shipping costs as products do not need to travel far. It also has it’s risks. In densely populated areas, crops can spread disease like wildfire and crops are exposed to low air quality from carbon emissions. Other potential problems could be conflicts with zoned industrial areas and access to resources. Five Borough Farm is a project created in New York City to provide organization to the growing urban agriculture movement. For our society to make the switch to sustainable agriculture, it will take a lot of time and resources to get people educated on the topic. Change times time. Here are ten cities in the U.S. that are paving the way for urban farming.
One misconception about sustainable products in general is that they are a fad and marketing ploy, when there are in fact many successful businesses that have built their company around social and environmental responsibility. For example, Patagonia focuses on manufacturing products that do the least harm to our environment. They do this through a meticulous supply chain. From promoting fair labor and safe working conditions to sustainable farming, every aspect of their business is decided on the cost-benefit impact it will have on our environment. One practice I want to address is the product quality management. Patagonia manufactures their products to last a long time, this in turn will reduce the environmental impact caused by consumerism. The company also started the Worn Wear program, an initiative to reduce our impact through educating consumers about product care, maintaining a repair service center and recycling clothing that have maximized their use. Extending the life of products so consumers consume less is a practice most companies don’t do because they don’t want to pass up the revenue. But consumerism has a large influence on our waste output and businesses should lead the charge in how we can reduce our impact. If you look underneath the surface, it is difficult to build a company around social entrepreneurship, but I believe this is where Patagonia shines and differs itself from the others. Take their Worn Wear program. They filmed a documentary called Worn Wear Stories of people sharing unique stories about their Patagonia products. The company distinguishes itself especially towards Millennials because we don’t want ads, we want stories. As a student of marketing, I think this is an amazing documentary. It not only inspires me to reduce my impact on the world, but also inspires me to share Patagonia’s brand and message with everyone I know.
In 2001, Nike, the global sportswear company, admitted to practicing child labor in sweatshops in Third World countries. Since then, they have been under the critical eye of progressives fighting against child labor and promoting fair labor and safe working conditions.
The trek to become the leading sportswear company in world still had it’s downfalls. In 2013, a Bangladesh garment factory collapsed, killing 200 workers. Though Nike was not the only brand to manufacture products in the building, they were still highly criticized for exploiting cheap labor abroad and not promoting safe working conditions. Instead of denying all allegations and fleeing from the issues at hand, Nike turned around, faced their issues head on and became a global leader. They began consistently assessing internal audits and Sustainability reports, they raised minimum wage of factory workers (though still rather low), adapted a maximum 60 hour work week, established a Code of Conduct and adapted U.S. OSHA clean air standards in all factories abroad. In partnership with the Fair Labor Association (FLA), Nike uses it’s platform to encourage other companies to adapt these practices. Nike was also the first in it’s industry to publish reports on the factories it contracts with. On their website you can find an interactive Global Manufacturing Map where you can get a detailed account of every Nike contracted factory in the world; from factory name and address to the number of employees, percentage of migrant workers and the type product being manufactured, Nike divulges any and all information.
It’s safe to say Nike’s bad days are behind them. They’re one of the recognizable, yet transparent, brands in the world. What was once a mishandled supply chain is now a competitive advantage. Through the Nike Better World initiative, the company began transforming recycled plastic water bottles into athletic apparel and introduced Flyknit technology – knitting fabricated material to reduce materials used in the manufacturing process. These are just a couple examples to show how Nike has become a global leader in sustainable innovation.
By reading this analysis I hope it helps you make more cautious decisions about which brands and companies you want to support. My main purpose of this analysis was to further explore innovative practices that make our world a better place…that focus on creating less harm and encouraging the greater good…businesses that influence positive change, instead of turning a blind eye.