Wednesday, 25 May 2011


The world is in a mess - and there is nothing we can do about it.

Correct ?

Cor-wrong !

In fact, we all make choices every month that affect whether forests survive (or are cut down), whether farm animals are treated humanely (or are kept in tiny cages) and whether small independent traders survive (or lose out to multinationals).

We make choices that ensure a fair wage for workers in the developing world (or leave them to flounder at the mercy of middlemen and commodity prices), reduce packaging (or waste materials and energy) and support local farmers (or support the long range transport of materials)

"Eh?", you may be thinking, wondering when it is that you wield this enormous power.

Well, dear reader, you have this power every time you go shopping. Every penny that you (and I) spend is making a choice - and whether we want to or not, we all make the choices listed above.

It's worth making that point again: Whether we want to or now, we all make these choices. When we buy, say, a pack of kitchen towels, we are making a choice about whether we want the paper used in them to be from a sustainable source (thus protecting biodiversity and preventing deforestation) or from an unsustainable source (thus contributing to loss of whole ecosystems and also to a reduction in forest cover around the world). It's pretty much one or the other - which one are you going to choose?

Having said that, we are all only human and all busy people.

We can't keep up with all the issues (sometimes we aren't even aware of them !) - but we can be aware of some of them (indeed, you would need to be living in a cave not to know that "free range" eggs are more ethical than eggs from caged hens) and make sure we make the right choices in these areas.

Sometimes, we can't financially afford to do the "right" thing - but even here we can play things cleverly. An approach that BFTF takes when the "right" choice seems a bit too pricey is to buy some of the cheap product and some of the "ethical" product, thus making the overall price somewhere in between.

To take a specific example, BFTF has been interested in a new line of tinned Tuna called "Fish4Ever" that is stocked in ASDA (and perhaps elsewhere). This product literature states that :

"This is a sustainably fished pole and line skipjack tuna. Most skipjack tuna is badly fished with high by-catch of endangered species and of juveniles causing risks to the survival of many species. Our skipjack fishing has no by-catch. Most skipjack is fished in parts of the sea where local domestic boats have been displaced and local communities have seen their fishing go to big foreign industrial boats. There is also a linked problem of high levels of illegal fishing in these waters. Our skipjack is not fished in this way: we support the local fisherman and only use small local boats and even local packing. This makes our product of higher quality - because it is fished in small quantities quite carefully, landed fresh and not kept on boats for weeks on end and then packed straight from the catch. Fish4Ever sustainability: land, sea and people, artisan and local."

Now that all seems wonderful and certainly seems like something worth supporting - but it costs over twice the price of the ASDA own-brand tuna (£1.62 vs £0.76 for a 185g can). With the BFTF household needing four cans for a typical Tuna-Mayo-Sweetcorn mix, this is an eye-watering price difference.

So what BFTF does is to buy three "own brand" cans and one "Fish4Ever" can.

This gives Fish4Ever a 25% share of the "BFTF market", which is almost certainly a much bigger percentage that they are getting of the UK market as a whole, and brings the average price per can down to 98p, which feels a lot more acceptable.

Everyone is a winner.

BFTF gets to support this product, to send a message to ASDA that this is a line that they should stock and to purchase Tuna at an acceptable price.

Fish4Ever sells product and gets a regular revenue from the BFTF household.

So there you go - a way to do the right thing - at the right price. Oh and by the way, the Fish4Ever Tuna is a good quality product in terms of looks and taste too.

More background on the issues related to overfishing can be found here.

More information on the issues related to deforestation can be found here.

Lastly, just to give some easy pointers on products that are a good ethical choice :

Paper products (kitchen towels, printer paper) - look for paper that is either recycled or has the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo
Fish - look for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo
Fruit/Veg - look for the Fairtrade logo
Dairy Products - look at the small oval logo to ensure that they are made in the UK

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