Ethical purchases

Launch of

Responsible Christmas Shopping: Start early, buy ethical

Monday 17 October 2005, by Alex HILL

What do a winter parka produced in a worker-friendly factory, 100% post-consumer printer paper, and a soccer ball that is not stitched by young children all have in common? They can all be found on, a new way to shop for socially responsible products in Quebec. pitches itself as the “google” of responsible shopping in Quebec, offering a searchable catalogue containing a wide range of goods that are produced with respect for a clean environment, fair worker-conditions and support the local economy. Tom Liacas and Brenda Plant, co-founders of, explain the mission of it to “see responsible consuming explode in Quebec, by making ethical buying easy and accessible to everyone.”

Test-driving an advanced version of the site, the range of products available is impressive. For each product you are given the option of ordering directly from the producer or visiting one of the local retailers who carry the product (addresses and phone numbers are listed).

For example, looking for a soccer ball, returns Y-Focus Fair Trade Sports Balls, which can be found at Kif kif on Mount Royal St. in Montreal. The site justifies Y-Focus’ equipment as a “responsible” product because it is made in factories that pay higher than average wages in Pakistan and do not employ children under the age of 15.

Liacas syas that considers three criteria for a product to be posted on, “respect for the environment, support for the social economy and production conditions that are worker-friendly.” According to Liacas, “this value is reinforced if the product is made or harvested locally. Why buy local? Because the use of resources to ship products from one place to another is significantly diminished, and the profits are re-injected into to the local economy.”

Of course this definition does not consider all the possible impacts, and over-consumption habits in rich nations like Canada can themselves be considered irresponsible. According to Koffi Anan, Secretary General of the United Nations, “high-consumption life-styles continue to tax the earth’s natural life-support systems” which contributes to societal pressures and undermines local economies. Liacas, who formerly coordinated Adbusters Buy Nothing Day campaign, agrees that over consumption must be addressed and that at the same time people need to a have ethical options for their every-day needs and purchases.

That’s where comes in, says Liacas, while “few products are made in a 100% responsible manner, people need to know the effects of each small day-to-day purchase and to use their buying power to shift the market toward responsibly produced goods.” And the potential is enormous. Consider the example of fair trade coffee, the most popular ethical product on the market. In 1997 there were only two points of purchase in Quebec, now there are over 1500 places to buy fairly traded coffee.

So why not get started now? With Christmas approaching,’s October 17 launch date offers two ways to be responsible consumers: starting early and buying socially responsible products.

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