BROWNWOOD – People may be buying a bit more than a quick snack when they pick up their favorite chocolate bar.
By purchasing items from particular companies and product supply chains, consumers are getting more than they bargained for, said Charlotte Bumbulis, who leads the Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission fair trade initiative Good News Goods. Many of the cheapest items on the market – including those from some of the largest manufacturers and retailers – are made available at such low rates because they rely on trafficked slave labor worldwide.
Most people buy products without thinking about who made them or where they come from, Bumbulis said. But the Christian faith should impact every aspect of a person’s life – including their shopping habits.
“When consumers are buying products of product chains that support human trafficking, we are supporting human trafficking,” she said.
According to betterworldshopper.org, a site dedicated to providing comprehensive information on companies’ social and environmental responsibility levels, trafficked labor forces support a wide range of industries, including coffee, chocolate and cleaning supplies.
Bumbulis insists there are ways consumers can “purchase with purpose,” encouraging fair economic development in other countries and remaining true to biblical beliefs.
“Fair trade” items are available in many places or can be ordered online, Bumbulis said. Good News Goods is one such avenue through which people can buy items directly from microbusinesses in the developing world. People can also choose to buy from local businesses or look for companies who make it a point not to use product supply chains that rely on trafficked labor.
“This is a way for us to put our faith and ethics into action,” she said. “The prices are slightly higher, but that’s the price of justice. That’s the price of fair wages.”
Though it still comprises a small amount of overall purchases, fair trade buying increased 22 percent worldwide in 2008. Despite the growth in the fair trade movement, many people are finding out about it only now.
Bumbulis has found many students who are encountering it for the first time as she has held Good News Goods events at Howard Payne University, Baylor University and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and expects to meet many more when she visits the University of Texas at Austin, Sam Houston State University and Baptist University of the Americas.
As she meets students, Bumbulis said they are excited about the prospect of exercising their faith through their purchasing power. Young people are looking to make a difference on large issues such as global poverty and human trafficking. Good News Goods is avenue to do that.
Lynn Humeniuk, associate professor of sociology and director of the criminal justice program at Howard Payne University, said she was pleased by the reaction of HPU students toward Good News Goods.
“My goal of inviting the Good News Goods to the Howard Payne University campus was to educate our student body on fair trade as it relates to workers from disadvantaged countries,” she said.” I was extremely pleased with the response from our student body turnout. Not only did they buy many of these products, but they were able to see how the simple purchase of chocolate or a bracelet could make a difference in the life of a poverty-stricken worker. It is amazing how God shows us that we can serve Him in many ways, even across continents!”
Bumbulis understands not every purchase will be a fair trade item. In some places, certain fair trade items are difficult to buy. But every fair trade purchase makes a difference. It helps support human rights and economic development around the globe.
“This is a tangible way to be aware of biblical justice issues that seem too big for us to make an impact on. But we are through some actions like fair trade purchases.”
For more information about Good News Goods, visit ,a href= “http://www.goodnewsgoods.com” target=_blank>www.goodnewsgoods.com or call 888-244-9400.