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Alternative Products

As well as for-profit companies being ‘partially’ involved in social sector activities, there are also those truly alternative trading companies or their supporters such as Adbusters. An anti-consumerist, not-for-profit organisation set-up in the late 80’s, Adbusters Media Foundation describes itself as “a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age.”

Interestingly they have launched their own shoe brand (or anti-brand) called Blackspot shoes. The shoes resemble a well-known trendy shoe design now owned by Nike. But the Blackspot brand name and logo are open-source. The shoes are made from sustainable and recycled material. This form of thinking ties in with anti-globalisation ideas from people like Naomi Klein. Profits from the shoes go back into the activism of Adbusters while their independent retailers keep their own mark-up.

There are also the increasing options of buying ethical products, as shown by the UK directory of ethical products. Its founder the Ethical Products Organisation state that they set it up to “make it easier for consumers to shop ethically be it for Fairtrade clothes, eco-friendly toys or responsible holidays.” As part of an attempt to ‘brand’ the ethical idea, there is now an EPO Directory Shield of Ethical Authenticity, where every site listed in Ethical Directory are issued with a ‘Shield of Ethical Authenticity’ to be displayed on their site.  A Social Enterprise mark has been discussed here before, and there are plenty of other ‘social’ brand marks such as Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance certified.

The difficulty is that all forms of anti-corporatism are eventually turned in on themselves and sold back to the consumer (punk, Che Guevara all now trendy icons). When it comes to branding, if you beat ’em, it may seem best to join ’em.

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