Two industries have erupted in violence in the past few months.
In both industries, disillusionment and anger have set in at the
slow pace of change for workers as South Africa struggles to
overcome its legacy as an economy built on cheap labour to one of
shared prosperity. But there is a crucial difference between the
two industries in question: one has an interface with consumers,
the other does not. Consumers have very little influence over
mining, but wine-making on the other hand, lives, breathes and
survives through brands. And it is through these brands that
citizens and consumers can exert our influence on the industry.
Consumer-facing industries are democratic. The brands that rise
and fall are decided by people like you and me, every day, in
billions of little purchase decisions made in supermarkets, spaza
shops and shopping centres. It is the power of our collective
decisions which gives rise to the notion that the 'consumer is
Why do we pay so little attention to this power that we wield
over consumer-facing industries? Our purchase decisions can change
the way industries operate. If it bothers us that farmworkers earn
so little (as it should), we should be buying in a way that rewards
the farms that treat their workers well. For example, do we insist
on buying only Fairtrade-certified
wine? Do we research our favourite wine labels, see how they treat
their farmworkers, and eliminate and prioritise what we buy
We have conscious consumption guides for sustainable fishing and slavery-free global brands.
Isn't it time we built a local database for good? We may feel
powerless to change the South African mining industry. But as soon
as we are armed with brands and choice, we can change everything.
Make your purchase decisions count.