It’s an unlikely chain of events that leads to us asking whether we should be buying charity Christmas cards from Tescos. It depended on a Florence Widdicombe, a six year old girl reporting to her Dad, her Dad reporting (via linked in ) to Peter Humphrey.
It took Peter Humphrey to talk to the Times and the story to spread via the BBC for the conditions under which the card was made to be made public. It took that note for the supplier Zheijiang Yunguang Printing to be exposed and for us to all ask just which of the Christmas cards on our shelves were made with slave labour.
That’s an information supply chain that can make us all sit up and think.
Peter Humphreys spent two years in a Chinese jail for talking about Chinese human rights. Read his story here
Can ESG policies make a difference?
I am not sure.
Can my pension fund disinvest in Tesco because its supply chain depended on a false declaration? It could but that should depend on how Tesco behave now.
Where did that false declaration originate? If Tesco finds it cannot trust the results of due diligence, should it invest in future? How wide should the boycott go?
How do we feel about our national trade agreements with China as a result of this little incident? Does it change anything?
Are we prepared to pay more for our Christmas cards or for Tesco to reduce its charitable donation or for our balance of payments numbers to shift? Or is there a simpler way for Tesco to source its cards where it can track the provenance of the work?
Will good come out of this little incident so that Florence can buy more cat cards to send to her friends without worrying how they were made?
And on a larger scale, can we rely on Tesco to provide us with an assurance that when we buy through them, we buy with assurance that we are buying with social good in mind?
Fair Trade brand-economics
We are getting used to buying with the provenance of the goods in mind. When I ate my chips in Honest Burger this weekend , I could trace which farm they came from. I recognised the person who chopped (not minced) my meat as he walked past my table.
When I do my banking, I think of the Fair Banking Foundation , a charity that has been helping 20m UK consumers to use products that come with a kite mark that tells us we are banking better.
Sometimes we don’t know that there are organisations behind our purchasing which are helping us to behave in a way that serves an environmental , social or business governance purpose. I didn’t know about Fair Banking until Andy Agathangelou introduced me to its Founder Antony Elliott and I didn’t know about Peter Humphry till the anonymous Chinese printer introduced his name via that obscure supply chain.
I use banks who bank fairly, I use supermarkets who act on information (Tesco have de-listed this Christmas Card supplier). And I will choose to invest with asset and fund managers who exercise pressure on organisations it invests with, to have and use ESG policies in their purchasing of goods.
I wrote over the weekend of the work of Share Action, who look more deeply into the policies of workplace pension providers as to how they exert this influence. We do have to be told how our money can best save our planet. We can choose who manages our money and if the purchasing decision in our workplace is to invest with a lagging provider, we can put pressure to invest with a leading one.
Fair-trade brand economics lead us to leading asset managers, fund managers and workplace pension providers. That’s the kind of good that people like Peter Humphrey and Share Action do.
The power of inter-connectivity
I was able to send a message of thanks to Peter Humphry this morning. I had never heard of him or his and his wife’s time in jail for publicising what is happening in China.
I had never stopped to think of the provenance of the Christmas cards I bought. But I do now, thanks to the bravery of that person in a Chinese jail, Florence, her Dad and the supply chain of information that led to me messaging Peter on linked in.
We often think of this inter-connectivity in terms of the damage it can do. But this is a case of the good that can happen when broadcast and social media work together.
The ultimate good would be for the Chinese Government to wake up to the protests of the foreign purchasers and investors who will isolate it and its businesses if it doesn’t clean its act up on human rights.
The power of Christmas cards
People buy Christmas cards for good reasons, even if the cards in question aren’t my cup of tea, if I got one from Florence Widdicombe, I’d put it above all others!
Because the £1.50 pack of Christmas cards she bought from Tesco, helped change my thinking and I’m sure the thinking of many others.
In the end – the truth will out – China should remember that.