Flexing some consumer muscle
Responsible business practices
A responsible business minimizes its consumption of energy, water and other materials, protects ecosystems, supports local communities, promotes animal welfare, pays its taxes and treats its workers and suppliers fairly. Failure to observe these basics contributes to climate change, threatens human health and undermines food security.
Why ask questions?
Legislation in the UK and/or globally either doesn't exist, is inadequate, or isn't enforced. Why wait for governments to act? Consumers hold all the power because without our custom businesses would fold. Simple.
It’s about making informed choices. For example, packaging frequently has inadequate or confusing information about the product’s provenance and restaurant menus rarely contain sufficient information on how their food is sourced.
Because companies often do not publish in sufficient detail the impacts of their supply chains and information that is available is frequently out of date, it's important to ask questions no matter how impressive-looking the symbols on the packet are or how good the company's reputation is.
Asking questions encourages accountability and can effect change. Asking for clarification on current practices is an opportunity to celebrate the good ones, challenge the bad ones, suggest better ones and determine what plans companies have to do more.
Social media are powerful tools for influencing companies; many businesses assiduously monitor customer complaints and feedback on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter so posting questions and responses online can be very effective.
What you can do
Next time you buy from a shop or cafe/restaurant, ask them a question. Simple. Talk to a staff member or manager, or later in the day drop them a line or post a question on Twitter (use #AsktheQ so we can retweet you) or Facebook. You can also support the campaign by liking it on Facebook/AsktheQ and following it on Twitter @consumermuscle.
It’s important to ask all companies questions but of course the ones with the biggest clout are the retail and café/restaurant chains as well as the major brands. See Ask the Q's 'Getting Involved’ section for suggested questions to ask. If you want to ask a company all of the questions, you could copy-paste them into an e-mail or simply send the company the link to the relevant webpage.
Numbers. You get bonus points if you can pin a company down to percentages and timelines; i.e. how much will change and by when.
Using the website
Ask the Q's 'Issues’ section has informed the suggested questions detailed under 'Getting involved' and draws on research undertaken by academics, authors, think tanks, government departments and charities. All sources are available upon request.
Ask the Q's ‘Latest News’ is where I would like to showcase your efforts so please post your findings, be they barking, scary, hilarious, face-reddening or utterly fantastic on Facebook and on Twitter. Or get in touch.
Ask the Q's ‘People We Like’ section is a source of real inspiration and just as importantly, stops other companies from hiding behind the excuse that ‘it’s just not possible to do things differently’. If you come across anything seriously innovative, let us know.