In my present job I see a number of issues that encourage the support of unsafe labour practices, quality control issues and a disregard for the environment. The globalization of our economy has encouraged large corporations to put considerable pressure on manufacturers - particularly in developing countries - to produce goods for ever lower prices - this encourages:
- use of child and forced labour
- unsafe work environments
- purchase of goods from countries with little or no environmental regulations or labour laws
- quality control issues (the raw materials used to make the goods often have little to no quality control and would not meet safety requirements and have on occasion been found to contain banned substances)
- the shipment of goods over long distances contributing to global warming, etc.
When new agreements are being proposed - particularly involving food and pharmaceuticals - it becomes even more concerning. There are little to no controls or checks and balances for either of these industries and no control over the quality from other countries.
By empowering the consumer with information related directly to the product, it will help encourage a more responsible approach from industry. Transparency is the key to a change in behaviour. If industry was forced to publicly report from a circular economy prospective - and have it independently verified by a neutral third party - from the source materials to the end-of-life of the product the true cost would be evident to the consumer. It would give Canadian manufacturers and edge and encourage new industry in Canada. Ultimately it would also encourage big players to change their behaviour. The reason we are seeing more sustainable practices and products is because of demand. If people had the entire picture this would encourage even more responsible practices.
The industry as a cost of doing business should be required to have third party verification of their practices (from source materials to end of life) and the report would be uploaded to a secure database accessible by both the organization and the regulator at the same time. The independent assessor would be responsible for accurately reporting the results. This would allow the regulator to focus on non-compliance and better use limited resources. The product or service would have a label that explained their score and the environmental impact of the product/service to the consumer. Empower regulators with the appropriate power to take action when industry is non-compliant.
Since no one else will say it - I will: people should be very concerned about agri-business and pharma. There is very little quality control and the organizations are not effective at self-governance. We should not support the use of practices and substances being used in other countries that are banned here. Requiring labelling that provides a full picture of where and how that product/service made it to the market and its overall impact would be a start.
There should also be concern over the prevalence of counterfeit goods making their way into the market - particularly online. Counterfeit goods cover everything from your clothing to electronics and car parts. It is a huge quality control and safety issue. We are very ineffective at combatting it.