A selection of Australian and overseas resources that provide useful information for better choices.
Otter brings you carefully selected ideas and information you can act on. But we’re just one voice.
A long history of consumer action
People have been making consumer choices according to their values for centuries. One of the most famous examples is the boycott of sugar and rum in England in the 18th century. Almost all sugar came from slave plantations in the West Indies. The consumer boycott was a significant part of the successful campaign to outlaw slavery in the UK and beyond.
Back then information was slow to move around and there was a lot less of it. Today there’s claim and counter claim about what’s good and what’s not on a vast range of issues. It’s sometimes hard to know what has real significance, what actions will really make a difference or where to start.
Five practical tools for now
Our advice and tips are based on the work of many organisations concerned with helping you to make smart, safe and sustainable purchasing choices.
In this post, we look at five of the best quality resources and tools.
Many products carry labels that claim to prove the product is safe, green, avoids animal cruelty, looks after workers or farmers and so on. But not all labels are equal – and some are downright shonky.
The best ecolabels
- are the work of independent, not-for-profit organisations with wide representation on their governing body
- develop robust standards in a transparent way based on scientific evidence
- openly publish their standards and auditing criteria for anyone to review
- require products to be independently certified as meeting those standards.
Some examples of good practice include the Forest Stewardship Council, Marine Stewardship Council, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and Good Environmental Choice Australia.
Labels promoted by organisations that are full members of the ISEAL Alliance meet these criteria, as do others that are committed to meeting ISEAL’s draft Credibility Principles for Ecolabels or other international standards such as ISO 14024 on ecolabels.
Shop Ethical is an Australian paper based guide and phone app that offers purchasing advice on products available in Australia, particularly in supermarkets. It looks at the environmental and social record of companies behind common brand names.
CHOICE’s main focus is on testing how well products work, but CHOICE also looks at other ethical issues from time to time and will often identify a ‘Green Buy’ as part of its product testing. Recent stories have also covered animal testing in cosmetics, Palm Oil issues and Fair Trade Chocolates.
Ethical Consumer provides ethical rankings of over 40,000 companies, brands and products to help consumers make the right purchasing choices. It also provides information for campaigners to challenge corporate power and businesses to improve their supply chain. While their focus is on brands that are common in the UK, information is often also relevant in Australia.
The Good Guide (US and Canada focus)
The Good Guide aims to help consumers find safe, healthy, green and ethical products based on scientific ratings.
Like Otter, the Good Guide’s purpose is to help consumers make purchasing decisions that reflect their preferences and values.
The Good Guide provides ethical scores for tens of thousands of consumer products, with a strong focus on what you can buy in the supermarket. It relies on labelling schemes and the assessment work of about a dozen staff scientists.
We love that you can apply your own ‘personal filter’ to set your own preferences according to the issues that matter for you, and this will change the product scores accordingly. There’s an app as well, and it also has this feature.
Both Good Guide and Otter believe that better information can transform the marketplace. As more consumers buy better products, retailers and manufacturers face compelling incentives to make products that are safe, environmentally sustainable and produced using ethical sourcing of raw materials and labour.