Friday, 31 October 2014

The Festival of Opinion Culture – Let's label unethical and harming products!

The Festival of Opinion Culture, held in Paide, Estonia this summer, joined over 4000 people with different backgrounds and interests. The two-day festival inspired by similar events in the Nordic countries, was an open platform for the discussion of society and culture. Everyone was welcome to listen, participate and exchange opinions about issues relevant to them and to Estonia.

Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation (AKÜ) had an opportunity to coordinate the Worldwide Stage and discuss interesting topics, such as Estonian relations with Asia; why our buying habits matter; humanitarian crises and refugees; and whose responsibility it is to make the world a better place. Among the contributors to the stage were experts from Tallinn and Tartu universities, writers, entrepreneurs, civil society representatives and politicians.

The fascinating debate about consumption – who makes our clothes and lays our dinner table, led to some unexpected suggestions. One of the participants came out with an idea to instead of labelling the fair trade and ethical products with positive tags, label the unethical and harming products with negative ones. As a result, the buyer would know which harmful activity he or she supports when buying the product and could make a decision according to the knowledge and his/her values.
A common viewpoint among the speakers was that consumers have to demand more information about the products and their origin. If they do not start doing it more loudly, the production continues moving to countries with weak gov
ernance, where human rights and environmental questions are ignored.
On the positive side, the new European Union procurement directive was introduced as a good method to promote fair trade, ethical and ecological products. This directive allows public sector to prefer these goods even if they are more costly. Private sector should follow the lead and replace the out-dated thinking that cost effective is always the best option.

Photo credits: AKÜ, Word Stage discussion.

Information provided by Katrin Pärgmäe, AKÜ

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