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Business - Written by on Friday, August 7, 2009 10:31 - 2 Comments

Exploring WikiChoice; Where CSR meets Collaborative Consumers

On a recent trip to the Eaton’s Centre for some exercise gear, I was overwhelmed by the giant selection of retailers and within each store, by the vast quantity of merchandise. I wandered by the Body Shop and paused to glance at the display in its showcase; messages like “organic ingredients” and “cruelty-free testing” in bold font, against a background of nature snapshots.

I rode the escalator up to the third level, only to be greeted by a group of yogis practicing sun salutations in front of Lululemon. And finally, when making my purchase at SportsChek, I was reminded of the 5 cent charge for a plastic bag from the recent city bylaw. It seems that the whole retail industry has been consumed with the idea of Corporate Social Responsibility, encompassing a wide spectrum of causes from fair trade, philanthropy, to labour standards and green solutions.  As an avid shopper and somewhat of an environmentalist, I whole heartedly support this shift in business focus but I also wonder whether these companies are genuinely compassionate or simply leveraging CSR as a marketing gimmick to boost sales? I also ponder at the fact of whether CSR should be paid for by the end consumer? It certainly seems like the case when you check out some of the price tags associated with these branded goods…

Thankfully, there is a place for some objective information: visit Wikichoice.com. WikiChoice seeks to become “the most powerful platform in the world for consumers to align their purchases with their deepest values.” Its database consists of company profiles that highlight key sections on fairness, justice, and sustainability. Here’s a sample page of Lululemon Athletica.


The site is still in its early form and a lot of the information is currently mined from Wikipedia, a practice dubbed as “Wikifarming” by the founders. However, over time and with more contributors, it will host a comprehensive database of global companies enabling a dual verification mechanism between corporate and the consumer.  You may remember Guess? Jeans’ sweatshop litigations in the 90′s, Starbucks’ biodegradable cup and fair trade certified coffee, or even more recently, the suicide of a Foxconn (Apple’s contractor in Asia) worker over an iPhone prototype. Now more than ever, there is transparency in CSR claims and companies are held accountable for their actions, not just measured on their marketing façade.

Thanks to collaboration, we can now buy “good” and hopefully move towards a concerted triple bottom line.


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Derek Pokora
Aug 7, 2009 11:37

Unfortunately, I do think that many companies are using corporate social responsibility as a spin to market many of their products. For example: Just because a product contains something that is organic or biodegradable and it’s components are, as a net whole, less toxic, it doesn’t mean that the product itself is safe for the environment. Companies have to begin considering a ‘cradle-to-cradle’ model for their products if they truly wish to be eco-friendly. How (process and component materials) are they manufacturing their products, and where are they being made. Less bad doesn’t equal good.

Ultimately, it is up to the consumer to make these (informed) decisions. In an ideally free market economy, it is consumption that drives industry. We, the consumers tell businesses what we want to see with our dollars and cents. With supply and demand, newer products on the market that innovate and truly are ‘cradle-to-cradle’ will be more costly. However, if we wish to see these products continue within the market, then we have to understand that we’ll have to pay more (at least at first). Sites like wikichoice.com and are definitely a step in the right direction.

Aug 16, 2009 22:45

What are your thoughts on http://justbought.it? I ask because it seems more and more social shopping websites popping up. Zappos just created my.zappos.com…. looks like others are following suit.

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