'Tis the season to be jolly -- and to be complicit in human rights abuses with many of our holiday purchases. That sweater you bought for Uncle Mike? Hand-stitched by 11-year-old girls in an Asian sweatshop. That game console for little Susie? Made of conflict minerals funding warlords in the Congo.
Sorry to play Debbie Downer in a Santa suit. But people are still working in appalling conditions around the world to fuel our consumption. Many companies are stepping up efforts to get a handle on what's going on in their supply chains. But for workers around the world they're not moving fast enough.
I believe that we -- concerned citizens and consumers -- can make them move faster. Since I delivered my TEDx talk, Manifesto for the Corporate Idealist, a number of people asked me to list the resources I mentioned -- resources to help people in and outside of companies make sure that business works in the best interests of society.
Here is a sampling of websites, organizations, and initiatives. This list is not meant to be anywhere near exhaustive; please add other resources that you've found helpful.
Research: Look up the companies you're buying from/working for/investing in
· Raise Hope for Congo has ranked the 21 largest electronics companies for their actions against conflict minerals.
· Greenpeace has a Guide to Greener Electronics. (I wish that "green" included impacts on people, not just our physical environment, but I guess we have to start somewhere.)
· The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre updates hourly with news and reports about companies' impacts on human rights, positive and negative. (I'm on their advisory board.)
Collaborate: See if they play well with others
Most major industries now have an initiative to tackle its biggest human rights challenge. Personally, I'd like to see every CEO sign onto the relevant one or explain why he hasn't. (I'll say "he or she" when the percentage of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 hits double digits.)
Here are a few of these efforts to think about this month:
· When visiting the in-laws, are you staying at one of the hotel chains that supports the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism? If you're in the U.S., that's unlikely; Only six companies in the country have signed up. (In comparison, 52 signatories are from Belize, a country about the size of New Jersey.)
· See whether that sweater was made by a member of the Fair Labor Association, which requires its companies to have independent monitors check out their factories and publicly report their findings.
If a company has signed up to one of these initiatives, it doesn't mean they've solved the problem. But I take participation as a healthy acknowledgment of a real challenge and a willingness to work with others to find a solution.
Connect with others
In my TEDx talk, I spoke about the many people fighting the good fight inside companies, working towards better social and environmental practices -- which can be a lonely job. If you're one of them, make a New Year's resolution to connect with folks in other companies doing similar work. Believe me, it will help sustain you through 2012.
Here are four ways of doing so:
· The Global Business Initiative on Human Rights has 14 corporate members working to "build a global community of business leaders sharing good practices".
· Net Impact "represents a new generation of leaders spanning sectors and industries who are putting their business skills to work for a better world," with some 280 chapters worldwide.
· BSR (for whom I'm a human rights advisor) does consulting, research, and "cross-sector collaboration" with its global network of more than 250 member companies. Its annual conference is a fixture on the Corporate Idealist calendar.
· The Aspen Institute Business and Society Program's First Movers Fellowship brings together social "intrapreneurs". (They're currently accepting nominations for the 2012 class.)
I appreciate how hard it is to process this information while holding a shopping bag and getting elbowed by other eager holiday shoppers, or when you've got 10 minutes to buy your last few gifts online. But that's nothing compared to what workers and communities around the world are suffering through. Let's all play our part this holiday season.
Do you have other resources for the Corporate Idealist? Tell me on Twitter: @christinebader
This editorial originally appeared on CSRwire's Talkback blog.