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The Cosy guide

ethical living

Contents Introduction 01 Chapter 1 Climate change Sustainable energy Transport

Chapter 2 Consumerism Clothes Water Food miles Fairtrade Pharmaceuticals Recycling & upcycling

Chapter 3 Tax Banking

Chapter 4 Boycotting

Chapter 5 Homelessness Asylum seekers & refugees HIV

04 04 06 10 12 12 14 15 18 20 22 23 26 26 27 12 30 32 30 34 36

Conclusion 37 Contributors 37

Introduction Welcome to the COSY Guide to Ethical Living! This was written by a group of young people involved in the Church of Scotland to help others consider how to live more ethically. The idea for the guide came about when the 2012 National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland was thinking about the problem of tax dodging. In discussions that followed, young people expressed a desire to live more ethically but felt they needed more information on how to do this and so the “COSY Guide� was commissioned. The guide should be easy to read with each topic broken down into manageable chunks, each with some information and ideas for action. We hope that reading it nudges you towards living more ethically.

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The Cosy guide to ethical living


What is ethical living? Before we get on to thinking about different ethical issues, we need to consider what is meant by “ethical living”. The word ‘ethical’ can mean lots of different things, but here it relates to decisions between right and wrong. This guide is designed to help you make the right decision in certain choices in your life – particularly choices about what you buy and how you spend money. Nobody can quite agree on what the ‘right’ thing to do is, but it usually relates to helping other people and making the world a better place (or at least trying not to make it a worse place). There are a number of different things that we can aim to do with the things we spend money on:

■ We can promote financial equality and help the poor, for example by trying to buy products from companies that pay their


workers well, so that those who grow products receive a fair share of the profit (see the Fairtrade section later on). ■ We can avoid harm to the environment or animals, for example by trying not to waste finite energy resources and buying products that are second-hand or recycled (see the Sustainable Energy, Clothing and Recycling sections later on). ■ We can avoid consumer practices that harm people and the planet, for example by trying to avoid giving money to companies that invest in weapons and arms, which are designed for killing people (see the Banking section later on). It is often difficult to know how to do these things because it often isn’t clear which companies are better to use than others, particularly when you’re in the shop and just want to try to spend as little money as possible. This guide won’t tell you how to live your life, but it will hopefully give you tips for how to better spend your money. It will also give you some food for thought so that perhaps you’ll think about the consequences of what you spend your money on as well as how much you are spending. As well as spending money wisely, there are plenty of other things you can do to try to live your life ethically, and this guide will try to explore some of them. The COSY guide to ethical living

Why is it important to us as Christians? A lot of Christians take the attempt to live ethically very seriously, and we think it is an important thing for Christians to think about. When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was (in Mark 12:28), he replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Jesus makes it very clear that loving our neighbour is one of the most important things we are called to do as Christians and a natural extension of this is that we should try to live our lives in ways that benefit the people around us – not only the people we see from day-to-day, but also the people who connect with us in different ways, by growing our food or making our clothes. It is also important that we look after the planet

The COSY guide to ethical living

that God has given us to live upon – because we are stewards of the earth, and because when we damage the planet we destroy the lives of the people who live on it, people who are also our neighbours. Hopefully this little guide will help you to see that by making a conscious effort to live in a way that helps others and shows your love for your neighbour, you only need to make small changes that can have a big difference.

Melissa Finally, meet Melissa. She is a normal person, just like you. Every day she faces a number of choices in what to wear, what to eat, how to travel, how to have fun and many other things. Sometimes she doesn’t even realise that she is making these choices. Throughout this guide we will be following Melissa through some of the situations she comes into contact with and we will see what she can do, and therefore what we can do, in order to live our lives more ethically n


Chapter one.


change Melissa is watching the news on television and they are talking about climate change. The news report is about how the vast majority of scientists agree that not only is climate change occurring, but it is occurring mostly because of the actions of humans and the excessive release of so-called ‘greenhouse gases’ like CO2. These gases are released into the atmosphere, where they form a sort of barrier, allowing heat from the sun into the atmosphere, but trapping the heat in stopping it from leaving. This leads to an increase in the world’s temperature, with dire consequences. Melissa keeps watching and learns that climate change is at a dangerous level now where it is estimated by scientists that greenhouse gases at their current levels will increase the planet’s temperature by up to 5oC. Temperature change at this level would cause devastation; predominantly in developing countries, with worse droughts, more erratic weather and sea levels rising. It is those who have contributed least to this crisis (i.e. the lowest polluters)


that will suffer most and we have a moral responsibility to help, both because we are encouraged to by our faith and simply as a matter of justice. Our behaviour is directly harmful and we should do as much as we can to stop this. Melissa decides that climate change probably is happening and is due to the actions of humans (which most scientists agree it is) and wonders what she can do1.

The COSY guide to ethical living

agreements, such the Kyoto protocol, which affirms what nations should be doing about the environment. Unfortunately, these agreements are often treated more as suggestions and not met. In particular, Russia and America’s decision not to agree to Kyoto has hampered positive change in this direction. Another protocol important to push for is The Special Climate Change Fund which countries should feed money into to allow developing nations adapt to the Climate Change that is already being inflicted upon them. Melissa does some research online and realises that there are some easy ways to raise awareness:

Influencing Government Policy Melissa begins to think that as well as making changes in our own lives, we need to see direct action from our Government, in order to change things at a national and international level. Global Warming is already having an impact on sea levels at such a rate that some of the lowest lying islands are starting to disappear underwater. This means people need to be re-homed, not in the future but right now. There are international

The COSY guide to ethical living

Vote – Choose a party whose Environmental Policies are strong as the issue is urgent. ■ Petition – there are many online petitions2 you can sign. Choose the official Government petitions relating to the aspects of climate change you care about most. Petitions for Governments to enforce strict policies on major companies that pollute are a priority. ■ Protest – support movements that rally for environmental friendly ideas. Petitioning is a form of this but marches and other such actions can be more visible.3 ■


Later in the news programme, there is a report focussed on initiatives for making a difference to climate change. Carbon offsetting is a reasonably new idea, designed to help the planet, although it is also quite big business in certain areas. It is the practice of paying to compensate for the amount of CO2 you were responsible for, so if annually you produces 10 tonnes of CO2 (which is the average in Britain), you would pay a subsequent sum to make sure 10 tonnes aren’t released elsewhere. This can be done by partially funding a wind farm, or paying a poorer country not to deforest. The latter option is particularly good as it allows for the redistribution of wealth to these poorer countries for minimal effort. This can be done from as little as £75 but if you’re doing all of the above you would be responsible for offsetting much less as you would have a much smaller carbon footprint. This is about being fair. By doing this, it averts the harm that we could have caused for someone else. In no other circumstance would it be considered acceptable to harm someone and walk away without compensating them. This is the same story but on a global scale. Melissa decides that she probably can’t afford it at the moment but when she’s in a position to, she’s definitely going to consider it. In the meantime she decides to encourage her family to offset the carbon their household produces n

e, have a look To find out mor: te on this websi nt.

footpri www.carbon fset.html of on b com/car

Many sections of this guide relate to how we can change our lifestyles to cut down on the negative impact we have on the environment – see the sections on Food miles, Consumerism, Transport and Sustainable Energy. 2 http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/ 3 Make sure any protests that you attend are safe, organised and legal! 1


susta ener Melissa loves living independently – just having the freedom to choose what she does without her parents’ constant nagging. But it has some serious disadvantages too, like having to do all her own washing, cleaning, ironing… and having to pay bills! Recently Melissa has noticed her energy bill creeping up in price. So why is it that people increasingly have to pay more for their energy? Melissa digs a bit deeper and finds some interesting information on the government body Ofgem’s website4 where she soon realises that only half the cost of her bill is for the actual gas and electricity itself. This is otherwise known as the wholesale energy price which tends to change frequently, sometime by large amounts, depending upon factors related to obtaining the energy. To her surprise, Melissa finds that the UK pumps large quantities of gas through pipelines under the North Sea from countries such as Norway and Belgium which is then burned to produce electricity. Since 2004, Britain has imported more

The COSY guide to ethical living

tainable rgy gas than it produces meaning that we have less control over our energy prices, which has led to increased costs for householders. Particularly in winter when there are high demands for energy, Britain must offer a price in order to import this gas which is at least as high as that on mainland Europe. As the European gas price is strongly linked to oil prices, UK gas prices have consequently become dependent on the price of oil. And oil prices are currently at a historical high, partly due to increased demand from rapidly developing countries such as China and partly due to the conflict and instability in oil producing countries such as Libya. This has led to uncertainty in the global energy market, which means higher energy bills for us. As Melissa begins to take all of this in, something doesn’t quite make sense. Why does the UK still depend on oil and gas when prices are so unstable? Oil and gas are finite resources (meaning that they will run out eventually), so why doesn’t the government consider other methods of energy production she wonders? At the moment, 46% of our electricity is produced from gas, 28% from coal and 18% from nuclear. In contrast, energy from wind powered turbines currently only makes up about 3% of the electricity supplied to the nation5. However, since the current National Grid (the UK energy transmission network) is currently overstretched and inefficient as it tries to meet the demands of a growing population, there are plans to transform the electricity industry. In doing this, the government must ensure that there will be

The COSY guide to ethical living

enough energy to go around while being able to meet environmental targets and reduce carbon emissions. The dream is to build a low carbon economy where much of our energy will be produced by renewable sources. Though this upgrade will increase our energy bills for the next few years, in the long term it’ll be cheaper since we’ll be less dependent on imported gas6. Melissa considers all the up-and-coming ‘renewable’ energy sources that she’s heard of on the news recently. Wind power, whether on-shore or off-shore, seems to divide opinion. Some people believe the turbines are an eyesore on the landscape and suggest that they cost too much to install and maintain, but is the cost worth it to produce cleaner, renewable energy?


Wind power is considered to be generally almost carbon neutral - carbon emissions incurred through the transportation and installation stage are generally cancelled out over the lifetime of the turbine. Onshore wind farms are also one of the most affordable energy sources in comparison to offshore wind farms and solar panel technology. However, when there isn’t enough wind for the turbines to operate, fossil fuel-based power supply is needed as ‘backup’. To overcome this, it is hoped in the future that technology will be developed to store energy at times when production by turbines exceeds demand7. Though Scotland may not seem like the ideal location for capturing energy from the sun, the Scottish Government has recently been giving out home renewables loans8 to help people buy renewable energy systems such as solar thermal energy, or solar panels. These solar panels convert energy from the sun directly into electricity, even on cloudy days (the sky is still very bright even on grey days). As well as being used to power electrical appliances, the energy can also be used in solar water heating systems9. These heating systems work by using the heat


from the sun to warm water stored in a cylinder to be used for showers, baths and washing, although they also sometimes need a boiler or immersion heater as a back-up.

People who produce their own power have the option to use it solely in their own homes or else sell all or some of it back to the National Grid for a profit. The initial cost of the panels may still seem prohibitive but as the government tries to promote low carbon technology to householders, more and more loans and grants are becoming available. As with everything it is important to research companies properly, because some

The COSY guide to ethical living

businesses which have been given grants to install the panels are not always the best tradesmen. Tidal and wave energy is another growing renewable energy source. Since we live on an island, we are surrounded by coastline that has the potential to produce vast amounts of domestic energy. Estimates suggest that tidal and wave energy could provide 75% of the UK’s energy needs10, and this is just one of a number of other renewable sources of energy that we need to begin to rely on, to reduce carbon emissions and halt our consumption of finite fuels. At the opposite end of the scale from renewables is something on the increase that has massive potential to damage our land - shale gas. Shale gas is harvested using a process called ‘hydraulic fracturing’, more commonly called ‘fracking’, which involves drilling deep into the earth and pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure to create fissures and ease the flow of gas for extraction. Some governments, including those of the USA and Poland, see fracking as a realistic and cheaper alternative to renewables but it hasn’t all been positive. There have been several incidents of serious contamination to drinking water, which have affected both humans and livestock, by the toxic chemicals used in the process. Fracking has also been shown to cause small earth tremors. In December 2012, the UK Government removed the ban on fracking, paving the way for further exploration across the country. Vast reserves of high shale gas potential have been identified in the south of England, the Vale of Glamorgan and also in Scotland, at a site between Falkirk and Stirling. To keep up with developments and to find out more about this controversial energy source, have a look at the Frack Off website11one of the biggest nationwide campaigns on fracking. With all of this in mind, Melissa wonders how exactly she can make a difference. She really wants to support renewable energy but, as a student, needs to keep her energy bill as low as possible. She visits the website of one of the big energy companies and immediately feels bombarded with the number of different offers available. This is a tactic known as confusion The COSY guide to ethical living

marketing – there are so many different tariffs offering various advantages that no-one really knows which one is cheapest. Luckily, as part of the new Energy Bill, soon companies won’t be allowed to do this12. In the meantime, Melissa uses the Energy Saving Trust website13 to find out about green tariffs which allow you to make some monetary contribution towards renewable power as part of your energy bill. Being able to choose your energy company may not seem like the most exciting freedom but it is an important one which allows you to spend money more wisely. The Energy Saving Trust website is in fact quite a useful tool to take action and save energy at home as well as money! Here are some other simple but very handy energy saving tips everyone can do at home: ■ Turn your lights off when you’re not using them – aim to use the most energy efficient light bulbs possible. ■ Don’t waste tap water – for example by leaving the tap running whilst you brush your teeth. ■ Only fill the kettle with the water you need – filling the kettle directly from a mug is a good way to do this ■ Think about insulating your home – this can save energy as well as lots of money. ■ Try turning down your thermostat – putting on a jumper is much better than wasting money heating an entire building. ■ Shower vs Bath – the shower is better for the environment (although not if you spend all morning in it – consider cutting down on time in the shower). Just being mindful of how you use energy and aiming to minimise the amount you use will save you money as well as helping the environment n 4 www.ofgem.gov.uk/Media/FactSheets/Documents1/Why%20are%20 energy%20prices%20rising_factsheet_108.pdf 5 www.jointhepod.org/media/64399/energy-mix-infopack.pdf 6 www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/27/rising-energy-bills- reduced-climate-policies 7 www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/25/climate-change- windpower 8 www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotland/Take-action/Find-a-grant/ Home-renewables-loan-scheme 9 www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Generating-energy/Choosing-a- renewable-technology/Solar-water-heating 10 www.renewableuk.com/en/renewable-energy/wave-and-tidal/ 11 http://frack-off.org.uk/ 12 www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-of-energy- climate-change/series/energy-bill 13 www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotland/Electricity/Buying-green electricity


transport Its 8.30am on a cold, slightly damp Monday morning and Melissa needs to get to a class for her college course, just a couple of miles away. She has a car, but is aware that filling the tank with lots of petrol is not particularly sustainable since petrol is derived from crude oil, a finite fossil fuel which when burned, releases harmful gases such as carbon dioxide or CO2 into the atmosphere. When CO2 is absorbed by rainwater, it can form a weak acid and cause an imbalance in natural ecosystem processes. Methane and water vapour are also released from car exhaust fumes which, combined with CO2, can contribute to the ‘greenhouse effect’ (see section on climate change). Climate change is already taking place and makes the world a more difficult place to live in for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. As Scotland seems to becoming wetter, many developing countries are experiencing increasingly extreme weather conditions such as tropical storms, droughts and floods. The charity Christian Aid has recognised that something needs to be done before the concentration of greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere becomes too high and we pass the point of no return. To find out more and get involved in Christian Aid’s ‘Time for Climate Justice Campaign’, follow the link below14. Stop Climate Chaos is a UK coalition of charities (including Christian Aid), all working together to limiting the


impact of climate change on the world’s poorest communities, and also worth checking out15. Deciding that driving might not be the best idea, Melissa isn’t sure if taking the bus would be any better since public transport effectively encourages people not to drive and save petrol, but buses themselves still require fuel. Within urban areas, however, buses are also usually cheaper if you account for all the costs associated with maintaining a car. Cycling is another option but Melissa isn’t sure whether all the energy and resources used to manufacture bicycles is particularly environmentally friendly (although she realises that bicycles are much easier to manufacture than cars). She resolves to buy a second-hand bicycle soon, perhaps from the Bike Station nearby16, which will save her time in future, reduce her carbon footprint and keep her fit. She decides to walk today even though the weather isn’t ideal, since it is a short journey, will save her money and avoid causing any pollution while benefitting her health. Many people believe that walking, and particularly cycling, can be dangerous in towns and cities, but fortunately organisations such as Sustrans17 are involved in creating traffic free cycle and foot paths across the UK, known as the National Cycle Network. Many other websites such as CycleStreets18 have online journey planners for using public bicycle and footpaths. If you decide to cycle, it is essential to consider bike safety - you don’t need to be dressed from head to toe in Lycra but it is important to wear luminous or reflective gear in order to be visible to traffic, along with a cycle helmet. Particularly on main roads, be aware of vehicles and observe the Highway Code19. For short journeys, cycling and walking is certainly cheaper but Melissa isn’t sure what the best option is for longer journeys. In his book “How Bad Are Bananas?”, Mike Berners-

The COSY guide to ethical living

Lee of Lancaster University considers the carbon footprint of a journey for one person from Glasgow to London and back (a distance of 810 miles) by different modes of transport: ■

A bicycle would use 53kg CO2e (CO2e is “carbon dioxide equivalent”, which is just a unit of carbon footprint based on the contribution to global warming) ■ A coach or bus would use 66kg CO2e ■ A train would use 120kg CO2e ■ A car would use 330-1100 kg CO2e (ranging from a small efficient car to a large 4 wheel drive car) ■ A plane would use 500kg CO2e This is a complicated issue, but it seems clear that taking a train or bus is much better for the environment than driving or flying if you’re on your own. If you fill the car with people then

suddenly it’s a better deal per person (and if you share the price of fuel, it’s usually cheaper too!). Using public transport like buses and trains (and trams, if Edinburgh ever complete their tram system!) can sometimes seem like quite a hassle if you haven’t travelled on the route before and it may seem easier just to hop in the car. Luckily, websites like Traveline Scotland20 have journey planners which make it very easy to plan even complicated journeys without having to worry too much about making different connections. Another advantage of taking public transport is that you can read, sleep or just relax which is certainly preferable to being stuck in a car in a traffic jam. Next time she goes on holiday Melissa resolves to think about how she travels carefully and to consider whether it is really worthwhile travelling long distances n

www.christianaid.org.uk/images/climate-campaign-pack10-guide.pdf http://stopclimatechaos.org/ www.thebikestation.org.uk - Based in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth, the Bike Station offers reconditioned bikes at low prices and also a repair service 17 www.sustrans.org.uk/ - The Sustrans website has lots of excellent resources about the health benefits of walking or cycling, ways to make it easier to walk or cycle to your destination and information about the work they do to reduce the carbon footprint produced by the UK’s transport methods.) 18 www.cyclestreets.net/ 19 www.sustrans.org.uk/change-your-travel/get-cycling/road-safety-cyclists 20 www.travelinescotland.com - Traveline Scotland is a very helpful website for co-ordinating public rail, bus, subway, plane and ferry services, which makes it much easier to plan a journey that relies on more than one of those services.) 14 15 16

The COSY guide to ethical living


Chapter two.

consumer This weekend, Melissa is hosting a party at her flat and she needs to buy some food and find a brand new outfit.

She knows it’s important to care for the environment by limiting the amount of waste incurred when shopping, so before going to the supermarket, Melissa carefully checks her cupboards and her fridge to check what food she already has. Based on this, she can plan her meals for the next few days using the Love Food Hate Waste website21 for recipe ideas and the portion calculator22 to work out how much food she needs for each meal. This is an efficient way for Melissa to save money while minimising food waste. In Scotland, 566,000 tonnes of food which could have been eaten is thrown away, which costs the average household £430 a year. If we all try to eliminate this food waste, we would greatly reduce greenhouse gases being produced by decomposing food as well as reducing the demand for food, which has environmental effects. At best, this would be equivalent to taking a fifth of all cars off the roads globally. There are always ways in which you can be creative with leftover food such as using vegetables in soups or a stir-fry. Not absolutely everything can be eaten but peelings and other leftovers can be composted. More details on how to start composting can be found on this website: (www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/content/ 5-easy-steps-home-composting)


Melissa chose to shop at her local supermarket for convenience but there are many options available. Look out for shops that are open about their long-term environmental policies since more and more businesses are now improving their ethical stance and environmental credentials (an example is Marks and Spencer). This is more difficult if the produce is sourced from abroad since it can be difficult for businesses to keep track of each stage of the supply chain and ensure that workers are being treated fairly throughout the production process and that the environmental impact of production is considered. Supermarkets have been known to use particularly unethical supply chains in order to maximise profit margins - Felicity Laurence’s book ‘Not on the Label’ illustrates some of the worst cases involving major British supermarkets. The COSY guide to ethical living


suppliers as well as local organic vegetable and meat suppliers can be found on The Soil Association website (www.soilassociation.org/ buyorganic/scotland). Food co-operatives such as the Glasgow University Food Co-op, Locavore (a sustainable food supplier based in Glasgow) and the Hearty Squirrel Food Co-op at Edinburgh University also provide veg boxes. It’s also possible to order food online from ethical suppliers such as: Holland & Barrett: (useful for vegetarian and wholefoods) www.hollandandbarrett.com ■ Ethical superstore: www.ethicalsuperstore.com ■ Doves Farm: www.dovesfarm.co.uk ■ MacLeod Organics: www.macleodorganics.co.uk ■ TraidCraft: (FairTrade food, tea, coffee) www.traidcraftshop.co.uk ■ Directory of ethical foods: www.alotoforganics.co.uk/cats/food.php ■ Suma Wholefoods: (sell wholesale produce to shops and will also support the setting up of food cooperatives) www.suma.coop ■

At the other end of the scale, the company ‘Divine Chocolate’ encourages their suppliers to become more socially conscious by giving them a stake in the company which means they have a vested interest in maintaining the business’ ethical image23. Another important factor to consider is how far your food has travelled, as explained in the section on ‘food miles’. The Fife Diet is a network of local food producers and consumers who have adopted the idea of surviving on food produced within the Fife area. You can source everything from flour to meat products using their website (www.fifediet.co.uk/). Similarly, veg boxes are a good option since these contain the freshest produce around which is grown locally and organically. A directory of veg box The COSY guide to ethical living

It is important to be aware of which fruit and vegetables are in season at different times of year in order to buy locally, reduce your carbon footprint and save some money too! The eat seasonably calendar is a handy online tool to check what exactly is in season: http://eatseasonably.co.uk/what-toeat-now/calendar/ The most ethical, environmentally friendly and cheapest option of all is to buy some seeds and find a patch of soil to grow it in! You can grow vegetables on a windowsill, in an allotment or in a garden and there is plenty of advice available online and in books. This website is particularly useful for growing vegetables to be used in cooking and there are also video guides too: www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/digin n http://scotland.lovefoodhatewaste.com/recipes http://scotland.lovefoodhatewaste.com/content/portions-and-planning www.smarta.com/advice/suppliers-and-trade/business-suppliers/three- ideas-make-your-supply-chain-more-ethical 21 22 23


clothes Next, Melissa cycles into town and finally finds an outfit for the party but which turns out to be quite expensive.

She could really have looked in some charity shops as well as high street stores. Many of us give clothes away to charity shops but far fewer people seem to consider regularly shopping in them too. Supporting the recycling supply chain is a very important part of being a green and ethical consumer since if no-one buys these products, the system becomes less profitable and ultimately less viable. Many charities also run very worthwhile recycling projects including one run by Oxfam called Wastesaver24. Donated clothing is either sold in their shops, online, from their festival shop in the summer or to fashion designers who restyle and reuse the textiles. If the items cannot be sold in the UK, they are exported and sold through ethical supply chains abroad. For example, lightweight summer clothing is donated to ‘Frip Ethique’ – a social enterprise in Senegal where the workers are employed to sort and sell clothes donated to Oxfam to local market traders. The project not only provides jobs for disadvantaged women but the profits are reinvested in livelihood programmes run by Oxfam in West Africa as well. Finally, the very lowest grade clothing Oxfam receives through donations which cannot be used is sold to recycling traders who transform the material into, for instance, car soundproofing or mattress stuffing. This gives

even more reason for Melissa and everyone else to support charity shops which make a difference to society and also a positive contribution to the environment. Aside from charity shops, the most ethical clothing tends to be made from organic bamboo fibres, undyed or with natural dyes, hand loomed and hand-sewn. Here are just a few companies who sell ethical clothing, as well as other ethical products: Directory of ethical clothing: www.alotoforganics.co.uk/cats/clothes.php ■ Traidcraft: www.traidcraftshop.co.uk ■ Seasalt Cornwall: (outerwear, waterproofs, footwear) www.seasaltcornwall.co.uk ■ People Tree: (fashionable ladies and menswear, accessories) www.peopletree.co.uk ■ Ascension: (Adults and children, accessories) www.ascensiononline.com ■ Bishopston Trading: (Adults, children & babies, fabrics, bed linen) ■ Nomads Clothing: (Ladies clothing and accessories) www.nomadsclothing.com ■ Gossypium: (Adults, children, baby, home textiles, fabrics, clothing sewing www.gossypium.co.uk n ■




The COSY guide to ethical living

water Melissa is out on a day trip with a friend and, as it is a rather hot, sunny day, they decide to go and buy some drinks to cool down from a small cafÊ nearby. Melissa’s friend chooses to purchase some bottled water, which puzzles Melissa - could she not simply ask for tap water? Other than it being chilled and for the convenience of being able to carry the water in a bottle on their trip, was there really any real benefit of selecting bottled over tap water? Are all types of bottled water not just the same even if they are heavily advertised otherwise? Surely both tap and bottled water are just the same quality? She decides to investigate upon returning home. Melissa first finds that in Scotland, we are truly blessed with one of the cleanest, safest natural The COSY guide to ethical living

water supplies in the world. This is because much of our water comes from upland lochs and reservoirs which are not particularly at risk of being polluted. Also, Scottish Water, the body which maintains our water supplies, must follow strict guidelines on keeping drinking water free of high concentrations of particular nutrients, toxins and parasites25. DWI carry out a similar job in England where water sources are often more susceptible to contamination, from fertilisers and industry, since the water table is closer to the surface26.


The main way in which tap water varies in the UK is due to the geology and the position of reservoirs and groundwater sources. Scottish geology is composed of relatively harder rock meaning that there are fewer ions such as calcium and magnesium and is why it is sometimes referred to as ‘soft’ water. English water is sometimes more nutrient rich since rivers and streams flow over softer rock such as limestone and pick up more ions. Melissa concludes that it’s generally quite safe to drink water from the tap!

price of plastic bottles and marketing of the final product. Last year, the profits of Highland Spring, one of the major bottled water companies in Scotland, rose to £5.6 million27. At a time when we’re trying to reduce our consumption of natural resources, manufacturing plastic bottles is not the way forward. The production process involves large quantities of oil and also water. As outlined in the Recycling section, plastic doesn’t break down naturally very quickly at all and can be an environmental hazard which is difficult to dispose of safely.

However, the water bottling industry is a lucrative one. Businesses simply have to abstract the water from the hills or a ground water source at minimal cost - the main expense is to pay for the

Melissa also realises that we are quite lucky in Britain since water scarcity isn’t a problem. It’s a different story in many developing countries where droughts have become far more frequent


The COSY guide to ethical living

- something which is thought to be a result of climate change. Pressure on water supply is already a global problem, particularly with an ever increasing population. For something most of us would consider a fundamental human right, it is disheartening to learn that nearly a billion people are without clean drinking water. The HIV epidemic, especially in African countries, is only compounded by poor quality water supplies. Since HIV gradually weakens the immune system, those with the illness tend to be more susceptible to common viruses28, in particular diarrhoea, which can be the result of an unclean, unsafe drinking water supply29. So why is it so difficult for people in these countries to access clean water? This basic human right is being compromised by many factors but two catch Melissa’s attention in particular. In poorer countries, without proper environmental laws and governance structures in place, access to clean drinking water is not quite as simple as in the UK. This means that multinational corporations seem to be able to set up business in foreign countries and not have to worry about preserving the natural environment they may be encroaching upon or maintaining a safe level of pollution in the air and waterways. For example, the international petrochemical firm Shell instigated operations in the oil rich region of the Niger delta in Africa. In 2008, an oil pipeline owned by Shell failed and began leaking into Bodo Creek- an area which only a few years before had received substantial investment for the creation of fish farms to support the local community. This oil was allowed to leak for several weeks before any repairs were made and consequently destroyed the natural ecosystem, chronically polluted waterways and left a population of 70,000 people without any livelihood to survive. This is an issue of international controversy – for more information, the Amnesty International website provides a good starting point30.

Another immediate factor threatening access to clean drinking water is the monopolisation of supplies in countries by international businesses such as Nestlé31. This means companies effectively have complete control over sources of water with which they can do as they wish. In Pakistan, Nestlé launched their ‘Pure Life’ product, marketing bottled water as a safe alternative to other sources. In reality, this water has been abstracted from groundwater sources nearby, meaning the locals themselves are left with less water which is of poorer quality and bottled water that they cannot afford32. Nestlé claim that access to water should be treated not as a fundamental human right but as a commodity, to be bought and sold at market prices. Moreover, they seem to be able to transcend the law – in Canada and also in some American states, they have started to abstract water from sources and are allowed to do so even during drought periods. This battle between the people and the corporations was brought to light for the masses a few years ago through an emotive film named ‘FLOW’ (‘For Love Of Water’)33. Melissa decides to sign a petition to express her concerns about this controversy34 but also to continue to make herself more aware. Melissa is shocked and surprised at the fact that something so basic and essential to life can be such a contested matter. After her research, she’s not sure she’ll be able to consider water in quite the same way again and resolves to drink tap water as far as possible n

Melissa also realises that we are quite lucky in Britain since water scarcity isn’t a problem.

www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2012/09/drinking-water12092012 http://dwi.defra.gov.uk/ http://swns.com/news/highland-spring-closes-gap-on-evian-with-record-sales-figures-24622 - see HIV section for more info. 28 www.lifewater.org/the-crisis/water/water-hiv-aids/ 29 www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=11181 30 www.hangthebankers.com/nestles-wet-dream-they-mark-up-water-53-million-percent/ 31 www.bottledlifefilm.com/index.php/the-story.html 32 www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGd9D4J0lag 33 http://stopnestlewaters.org/about 25 26 27

The COSY guide to ethical living


food mi Melissa is back in the local supermarket, once again being perplexed by the variety in the food sections, with a number of different types of each product. Some are organic, some are Fairtrade, some are from different countries and some seem to pride themselves on being from British farmers. Melissa realises that she has never stopped to think about where her food comes from and wonders whether she should start thinking about more than just the price tag when she does her food shopping. Melissa decides to head home to do some research online and learns that the issue of food miles is a complicated one. It stands to reason


that it should be better for the environment to buy food that is grown locally, because it won’t have devoured as much energy/created as much of a carbon footprint during transport. It also supports local agriculture, which many people are keen on (particularly farmers!). Unfortunately for Melissa and us in Scotland, it’s not always as simple as this – a 2006 study from New Zealand compared the carbon footprint of apples sold in the UK, either produced in the UK or produced in New Zealand and found that actually the carbon footprint of the New Zealand apples was about The COSY guide to ethical living


There are a number of key points worth considering though. Locally grown food bought in-season is usually best (the BBC website has information about what food is in season, as well as useful recipes to take advantage of this36, as does www.eattheseasons.co.uk and probably a number of other websites). Most shipping of food around the world is done by boat (only about 1% as bad as flying and driving37), which doesn’t actually add too much to the carbon footprint of food, compared to the footprint produced by storage, agricultural practices and fertiliser usage. Air freight is sometimes used to get produce into shops ahead of their natural season in the UK, which is much worse for the environment because air flight is terribly carbon unfriendly. Road miles have a similar impact (per mile) to air shipping (i.e. 100x worse than shipping by sea) but distances involved tend to be much shorter.

2/3 the size of that for the UK apples35. The study discussed the fact that UK production of apples seems to consume more fossil fuels on the farm and that they required more cold storage using domestic energy that is less clean than New Zealand’s, which offset the fact that New Zealand apples were shipped most of the way around the world. This isn’t meant as an encouragement to buy apples from New Zealand, but just to illustrate that it’s not always as simple as just minimising the number of miles food has to travel. One of the problems of such studies is that these things can never be calculated exactly and certain assumptions need to be made so other studies have made conflicting findings. Another problem is that there’s often no way of telling from the label what impact the food has had on the environment. The COSY guide to ethical living

Meat and dairy are particularly high carbon footprint foods, because animals take up a lot of space, consume a lot of energy and ruminants like cattle and sheep produce a lot of harmful methane. Chickens are slightly better, but one way to reduce the impact of your diet is to eat less meat and dairy. Going vegetarian would be even better although you won’t do anyone any favours by refusing to eat meat that has already been cooked, because the energy has already been consumed. The excessive demand for meat has also led to deforestation in other parts of the world, to make space for grazing animals, which is very bad for the local and global environment – deforestation is a huge problem facing the world today. Cutting down waste is vital – one of the biggest things we can do to reduce our carbon footprints is to not waste food. It also helps to buy fruit and vegetables that are misshapen, as these are the ones most likely to get thrown out by shops at the end of the day and there is the risk that some shops will just throw out these pieces of food earlier in the supply chain if nobody buys them. Foods that require heated greenhouses can also be very high carbon, because it takes a lot of energy to heat a greenhouse. For this reason, tomatoes may be very bad for the environment if grown locally during winter months.


Excessive packaging, such as glass bottles for liquids that could go into plastic bottles (i.e. most of them, particularly alcoholic drinks) can contribute to the carbon footprint of foods. Look for recycled packaging and avoid excessive packaging. Fertiliser can increase or decrease the carbon footprint of your food – it increases the amount of food that can be grown on a piece of ground and increases yields, which is good. On the down side, however, nitrogen fertiliser can release a lot of nitrous oxide, which is a very potent greenhouse gas. It is clear to Melissa that the carbon footprint of food is a very complicated issue, and that’s before considering problems like how much the growers are getting paid for their food (see the Fairtrade section). Despite this, Melissa thinks that following the tips below will help her lifestyle have a considerably smaller impact on the environment.

fair Melissa is in the supermarket, where she is deciding which fruit to buy as part of her weekly shop.

Tips for eating ethically: ■

Find out where your food is grown. There will be a label on fresh veg, fruit and meat telling you where it comes from. It is usually best to eat local produce. ■ Eat all your dinner (or no dessert!). Also buy the misshapen fruit and veg. Play a game with your ethically minded friends of ‘find the weirdest shaped fruit’. Score extra points for the one that looks most like the prime minister! ■ Try and eat food that is in season and avoid foods that have been grown out of season using lots of energy. ■ Consider going vegetarian for part of the week. ■ Always recycle your packaging. Make full use of all your recycling bins. If you don’t have recycling bins, get in touch with your local council n

35 Saunders C, Barber A, Taylor G. 2006. Food Miles – Comparative Energy/ Emissions Performance of New Zealand’s Agriculture Industry. Research Report no. 285. Lincoln, New Zealand: Lincoln University. http://www. lincoln.ac.nz/documents/2328_rr285_s13389.pdf 36 www.bbc.co.uk/food/seasons/ 37 “How bad are bananas?” Mike Berners-Lee (book) Profile Books 2010.


She can see several brands of banana on offer, some of which are Fairtrade and some of which aren’t. Melissa stops to consider the impact her decision might have on the people who worked to produce the goods she buys. She has heard of Fairtrade before, and knows that people seem to think it’s a good thing, but she wonders what sets them apart from other certification schemes? Melissa decides to have a look on the website of the Fairtrade Foundation (www.fairtrade.org.uk) to find out just what Fairtrade means. The COSY guide to ethical living

rtrade Melissa discovers that the Fairtrade Foundation put their focus on the quality of life and future of the farmers and workers involved. They aim to tackle poverty at its root. She notes that the Fairtrade certified bananas are a little bit more expensive than the other bananas on sale. While higher prices can be off-putting for some customers, it is important to remember that these prices provide the producing organisations (usually made up of a number of banana growers within a local community) with a guaranteed minimum income regardless of how much larger companies, like supermarkets, are paying. This guaranteed income is vital for the producing organisation to be able to maintain sustainable production. Although minimum pricings to large companies are set by Fairtrade, producers still have control, and are able to ask higher prices for their products if they are of a higher quality, or if they are organic. The organisations are also able to set up stable, long-term contracts with these larger companies, where the company will pay for the bananas before they are grown, and the organisation can then use this money to improve their local community (thus benefitting individual growers and their families) and cover any production and processing costs. The producer organisations are also always paid a Fairtrade premium over and above the cost of the bananas themselves. This premium must be invested in improvements to farms, processing facilities or education and healthcare schemes. Through these, the communities can benefit from higher crop yield and quality, increased income, or better living and working conditions for growers and their families. The way the premium will be spent is decided democratically, and is used to benefit workers and growers, not company owners. The COSY guide to ethical living

For some products such as coffee, cocoa, cotton and rice, Fairtrade will only certify small farmer organisations or co-operatives. For larger companies or plantations, for example producing tea or bananas, Fairtrade will only certify those where workers will benefit, and where their basic rights according to the International Labour Organisation conventions are protected. Through the protection of these rights, workers are able to negotiate better working conditions, and are able to gain skills in leadership, communication and project management. However, Fairtrade is not a perfect system and there is much misunderstanding regarding its practices. For example, Melissa hears someone saying that ‘Fairtrade’ products need only be composed of 20% Fairtrade material. She decides to check the ‘Frequently Asked Questions page on the Fairtrade Foundations website and discovers that this is only for special circumstances, for example where the Fairtrade ingredient is particularly important to the product, such as cocoa in drinking chocolate. It is also noteworthy that there has been difficulty in maintaining standards, both at producer and retailer levels. This has led to instances of companies using the benefits of the Fairtrade logo without committing to the ethical standards set. Keeping all this in mind, Melissa opts to purchase the Fairtrade bananas. While it is not necessarily universally ‘right’, she understands that purchasing Fairtrade products is a big step in the right direction n




pharmaceuticals drug contain the same active ingredient that produces the effects of the drug. They must also have the same strength, dosage form, and route of administration as the brand-name.

Are generic drugs as good as brand-name drugs?

Melissa has developed a headache and has decided to get some painkillers from her local supermarket. In the shop, she realized just how many brands and types of painkillers there are. Some are the local supermarkets’ own label ‘generic’ drug and some are well known brands made by big pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Johnson & Johnson. Melissa finds herself wondering why there is such a difference in price between the supermarkets own-brand generic Ibuprofen and the branded products like Nurofen.

What are generic drugs? A generic drug is a chemically equivalent (bioequivalent), lower-cost version of a brandname drug. The generic and the brand-name


Yes. Generic and brand-name drugs must meet the same standards for effectiveness, safety and quality. Many generic drugs are made in the same manufacturing plants as brand-name drug products. Generic drugs also need (by law) to have the same quality, strength, purity and stability as their brand-name versions. Some generic drugs look different to branded drugs, but the active ingredients are the same – the only difference is in things like size, shape and colour, which don’t affect the activity of a drug, and different versions of a medicine may have different inactive ingredients, like sugar and the ingredients used to make a pill.

If generic drugs are just as good, why do they cost less? When a company develops a new drug and submits it for approval, a 20 year patent is issued, preventing other companies from selling the drug during the life of the patent. As a drug patent nears expiration, any drug manufacturer can apply to sell its generic version. Since these manufacturers didn’t have the same development costs (such as years of expensive research and safety tests), they can sell the drug at a discounted price. Once generics are allowed, the competition keeps the price down. On average, the cost of a generic drug is 80-85% lower than the brand name product39. Melissa realises that there is really no good reason to pay extra money to buy branded drugs when ‘own-brand’ generics are available and resolves to tell her friends n

39 www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/ buyingusingmedicinesafely/understandinggenericdrugs/ucm167991.htm

The COSY guide to ethical living


& upcycling When Melissa arrives back from the supermarket, she realises much of the food that she’s just bought is packaged in plastic.

All of her purchases have been put into plastic carrier bags. She knows it’s important to recycle but here are a few key reasons why: ■

It reduces the need to extract, refine and process finite natural resources such as oil which are often used to produce everyday household items. This can produce significant amounts of air and water pollution contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Manufacturing recycled materials uses considerably less energy than that required for producing new products from raw materials. It reduces the amount of waste reaching landfill sites. It costs local authorities the same to recycle a tonne of waste as it does for them to send a tonne of waste to a landfill.

Plastic may be a cheap, versatile, durable material but it can take hundreds of years to break down naturally and is likely to become an environmental hazard during that period. Part of the problem is that there are about 50 different groups of plastics with even more varieties and financially viable processes simply haven’t been found to recycle them all yet. Even in the products we use every day like margarine tubs and food trays, there are a wide range of plastics The COSY guide to ethical living

used in packaging, only two types of which are normally uplifted by local councils: PET which is used in fizzy drinks bottles and HDPE which is used for washing up bottles. LDPE is another type of plastic, normally found in carrier bags and bin liners. See: www.wrap.org.uk/content/typesplastic for more information. The On-Pack Recycling Label scheme launched a few years ago means major retailers40 have agreed to use consistent labelling on their products which indicates: the packaging component, the material type and the recyclability status (whether it can be recycled locally or not). All of the different symbols can be found by following this link: www.recyclenow. com/why_recycling_matters/recycling_ symbols.html). Some products labelled with the message ‘recycle with carrier bags at larger stores – not at kerbside’ means that you can now recycle carrier bags along with some plastic films, like those used to package bread, at supermarkets including Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, The Co-operative and Waitrose. Some also offer the option to hand the bags back to the driver if your shopping is delivered at home. It is these kinds of plastic which make up 43% of all plastic household packaging and weigh in at 645,000


tonnes every year, making them a crucial target to recycle responsibly. Recycling other types of plastic and materials can be tricky since every local council in Scotland has a different system in place. Fortunately, there is an excellent postcode search on the Greener Scotland website41. Here you can find out exactly what you can recycle, where your nearest recycling facilities are and whether there’s a kerbside recycling collection in your area. With this information, Melissa finds a far easier way to deal with all the excess packaging which came with her shopping and would otherwise have gone directly to a landfill. However, she resolves to buy her own bags made from recycled materials which she can use for all her future shopping trips. Once Melissa sorts all her recycling into the various boxes and bins, it will be processed as beautifully illustrated in less than a minute in this very short video42. However, even though the UK as a whole now recycles 43% of its household waste, 70% of this is in fact exported to China43. International trade in recycled items is very important and minimises the need to use more expensive raw materials to manufacture them, including oil. In particular, much of the waste plastic produced in the UK is transported in container ships to China where it is used in the country’s booming manufacturing sector44. There, the materials can be upcycled.

instances, we are perfectly capable of upcycling materials, but it can be too expensive and the items produced may not be able to compete on the market to be sold for profit. Melissa recently attended an upcycling workshop after reading about it on her local Transition network’s website45. On a small scale, upcycling is nothing new - it’s something people have been doing for centuries. Whether this is melting glass to be fashioned into new objects or using old juice cartons to make a wallet, there are many ways we can avoid throwing everyday rubbish away. So to decorate her flat for the party, Melissa decides to fashion tea lights from jam jars and also covers some of her threadbare cushions with old shirts that she hasn’t worn in a while. There are many different websites which offer ideas on how to upcycle the weirdest and most wonderful items . All you need is a random item that would otherwise be thrown away and a little bit of creativity n

Upcycling is simply a fancy name for refashioning a defunct object - for example, plastic bottles being made into fleece fabric. This may seem like a clever way to offload our waste and allow it to be reused elsewhere but working conditions and employment rights in countries such as China are not as high as they are in Britain and environmental laws are not as stringent. In many www.onpackrecyclinglabel.org.uk/default.asp?main_id=2&sub_id=6 www.greenerscotland.org/reduce-reuse-recycle/search-for-your-local-recycling-services www.recyclenow.com/how_is_it_recycled/plastic_bottles.html 43 www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/waste-not-want-not-britain-has-become-a-nation-of-recyclers--but-is-it-making-a- difference-8607804.html 44 www.recyclenow.com/why_recycling_matters/isnt_plastic_export.html - The Transition Network is a global initiative based at a grassroots level which aims to combat climate change. To get involved, events are advertised Towards Transition Glasgow website: http://ttglasgow.ning.com/ and the Transition Edinburgh website: http://transitionedinburgh.wordpress.com/. It is also worth searching online for independent environmental groups nearby which may offer similar events and workshops. 45 www.upcyclemagazine.com/ 46 www.recyclenow.com/what_can_i_do_today/can_it_be_recycled/index.html - For information on how to recycle almost every kind of weird and wonderful item you can imagine. http://www.uk.freecycle.org/ - Freecycle - a kind of worldwide bartering system. 40 41 42


The COSY guide to ethical living

Chapter three.

tax Melissa has just finished her first month in her first part time job.

She has been looking forward to reading her pay slip. She is disappointed when she sees how much tax she has been charged. She has never really thought much about tax before but she wants to know more about it – especially now that she is paying some.

Melissa finds another article which tells her that when companies move their profits to these tax havens, poor countries are losing out47. Some of these countries are losing more through this than they receive in aid. She doesn’t understand how that could be fair and as she keeps reading she learns that most of these countries do not have the resources to challenge these companies.

She reads an article in a newspaper that mentions large companies which have been using “tax havens” to pay less tax. Melissa has questions: why does this matter? Surely if you can pay less tax then that is a good thing? It means larger profits which are better for the economy, right? What is a tax haven? She decides to keep reading.

Melissa isn’t really sure what she can do, it seems like a big issue for her to tackle. During her research she sees that some people have written to their MPs about this48. If the law changed to make these companies less secretive about their financial affairs then that would make a difference. If everyone could see how much tax companies were paying to each country, she is sure that they would start to pay more. Melissa thinks that if there were consistent rules then tax would be fairer amongst companies, the companies would be held accountable for their finances and poorer countries would not lose out.

As she does she learns that tax havens are parts of the world where there are higher levels of financial secrecy and tax levels are very low or non-existent. It turns out that some companies are moving their profits to these havens to reduce tax payments. Melissa is still struggling to understand why the newspaper is making such a fuss – surely this makes good business sense?

Melissa realises that she can’t take on this issue on her own so she asks some of her friends to write to their MPs as well as signing the petition to the Prime Minister49. During her research she also notices a few online campaigns50. She signs up to them to keep updated on the issue and is happy to discover that progress is beginning to be made51 n

Christian Aid, Trace the Tax: http://www.christianaid.org.uk/actnow/trace-the-tax/index.aspx a good reason to write to your MP: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2013/02/20/country-by-country-reporting-is-making-progress-despite-the-uk/ www.actionaid.org.uk/102017/tax_justice.html 50 www.church-poverty.org.uk/taxbus/about, http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/front_content.php?idcatart=2&lang=1 and http://treasureislands.org/the- arguments/ - an interesting book by the looks of things. 51 www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/may/07/ernst-young-lobbies-against-tax-transparency followed the next day by: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/ Blog/2013/05/08/ernst-young-concede-the-case-for-greater-tax-transparency-has-been-won-but-want-to-put-every-obstacle-they-can-in-its-path/ 47 48 49

The COSY guide to ethical living


banking Melissa is chatting over a cup of fairtrade coffee when she learns that her friend has recently just switched to a more ethical bank. Melissa thinks that switching banks sounds like a lot of trouble and is very confused about what makes a bank ethical, so she decides to find out more from her friend.

What’s the problem? The behavior of the banks recently with bailouts, rate fixings, bonuses and yes, the financial crisis has prompted a lot of people to look anew at where they put their money and search for banks that behave differently. But aside from the recent scandals – another huge issue is that if you have money in a bank, the bank invests this money around the world without you necessarily knowing what your money is being used to fund. Your savings might be being used to finance nuclear weapons, the arms trade, deforestation, the eviction of indigenous peoples from the land… the list goes on.

So what? You can do something about this. Banks exist by holding the money of everyday people – as a consumer, you can choose to put your money in a bank that behaves more ethically. You might not have that much money, but holding an account matters. The big five banks hold 85% of all current accounts – but if more people switch to ethical institutions, banks will have to take notice. Melissa still wants to know more so her friend tells her to have a look at this brilliant interactive website: www.banksecrets.org


Where should I switch to? One option is to join a Building Society or Credit Union, which are effectively restricted by law from the sort of controversial investments mentioned above. With Building Societies and Credit Unions, you are an owner as well as a consumer, which means the aim of the institution is to benefit members rather than to maximise profit.

The COSY guide to ethical living

Melissa still isn’t too sure what Building Societies are all about so her friend tells her about a great newspaper article: www.telegraph. co.uk/finance/personalfinance/buildingsocieties/9719277/Cowies-Quick-Guidespart-2-building-societies.html The Co-operative Bank is also owned by members, which means it too is accountable to members, not share-holders . The Co-operative Bank was voted Best Current Account Provider 2011 by MoneySupermarket, and according to Ethical Consumer magazine it is a clear best buy. For twenty years, the Co-op has been developing its stance on who it will and will not lend to – a stance that now covers human rights, the environment, international development and animal welfare issues. Although other banks have come up with similar policy statements, Ethical consumer says none of these come close to the Co-operative’s for clarity and ambition . The bank also uses your money to campaign on key issues of the moment such as unconventional fossil fuels or the decline of bees. In addition, the co-op is investing in local communities. The only downside to the Co-op Bank is the current lack of branches. The recent merger with Britannia means you can bank there too, with two Glasgow branches, one in Aberdeen and one in Edinburgh, but you’re out of luck anywhere else. However assuming you use internet banking, the only time you should need to go to a branch is to show documentation for opening a student account, or to deposit physical cash or cheques. If you need to deposit cash regularly, you could consider opening a basic account with a more convenient bank and then use internet banking to transfer the money to your Co-op account (and tell the Co-op you’re being forced to give your business to an unethical rival because there aren’t enough branches!) For savings only, other options are The Charity Bank and Triodos Bank. These don’t offer a current account, only savings accounts and ISAs – you can’t withdraw a lot of money whenever you want, there will be a limit, eg three withdrawals per year. This is ideal if you have some money to put aside and want to get a better rate of interest than an everyday account, but also it ensures your money is being invested ethically.

The COSY guide to ethical living

Melissa has never really thought about what her money is doing in the bank and now that she knows some of the areas that her money is being invested in she is keen to switch to the more ethical Co-op Bank.

How do I switch? Switching is easy. If it’s not, make a fuss. Her friend tells her that the Co-op Bank made a mess of her application, but after she wrote a strongly- worded letter she got a nice wee compensation sum! Her friend makes sure to reassure her that apart from that, their customer service has been excellent! Her friend gives her some fool-proof steps on how to switch: Have a look online at the different accounts offered. You’ll probably need either a current account or a student account. The Co-op offers different accounts which you pay a monthly fee for and in return you get benefits like travel insurance, but these are only available if you’re putting in a regular salary. Thankfully, their normal free account works just as well. The student account is also free. Then you click a button on the website to start the switching process. Or you can call 08000 284 284 or visit your local branch. If you’re applying for a student account you will need to send in some documents to prove that you’re a student. All the information is available online. The Co-op will then contact your old bank for a list of your Direct Debits and standing orders. When the Co-op receives the list, they’ll make sure all your standing orders and Direct Debits work with the new account. You’ll get letters to confirm all of this. Tell your employer etc of your new account details so your salary goes to the right place. Smile. Here is an Ethical Gold Star – wear with pride!


Melissa successfully switches over to the Co-operative Bank completely hassle free thanks to her friends help. She feels safe in the knowledge that her money is being invested in a completely ethical way!

What about ISAs? If you have money that you want to save, you should really get an ISA – it’s just an account that is not taxed. Banks tend to lure you in with the promise of a high interest rate, but after one year that high interest rate goes away and your money is sitting there earning almost nothing. So the best thing really is to switch ISAs each new tax year – every April, have a look around for the best interest rates (and of course ethical standards!) and switch. This might seem like a hassle, but it’s worth it. Put time into getting a better interest rate and you’ll have more pennies at the end! It’s also worth saying that if you’re going to switch ISA, never withdraw the money yourself from the old one and then deposit it into the new ISA or you’ll use up the yearly allowance. Always open the new one and then get the bank to transfer the funds – there’s a form you can fill in. More information is available here: www.moneysavingexpert.com/ savings/cash-isa-transfers


Other websites you might find helpful: General ■

www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green living-blog/2012/feb/10/ethical-bank- account ■ www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/ jul/29/lucy-siegle-ethical-living-banking ■ www.ethicalconsumer.org/buyersguides/ money/bankingcurrentaccounts.aspx ■ www.banksecrets.org ■ www.moneysavingexpert.com/banking/ The Co-operative ■

www.co-operativebank.co.uk/servlet/ Satellite/1193206375355,CFSweb/Page/Bank ■ www.co-operative.coop/corporate/ ethicsinaction/ethicalpolicies ■ www.goodwithmoney.co.uk/ Other Banks ■ ■

www.charitybank.org/savings-accounts www.triodos.co.uk/en/about-triodos

The COSY guide to ethical living

Chapter four.

boycotting Melissa feels that she is becoming more ethical in her lifestyle. She is finding out lots about the everyday choices she makes such as like where her food comes from, how banks work, and the conditions that her clothes are being made in, that she has never thought about before. Melissa can make a difference and choose to be ethical in allowing these things to shape her purchasing decisions, but can she do more?

Yes, she can boycott. Boycotting is when you withdraw from commercial or social relations with a country, organization or person as a punishment or protest54. Essentially, to boycott something means that you stop using it, until such a time as there is a change of practice within than organisation. Boycotts are a peaceful way of standing up and showing that you will not be associated with a group and its practices. Boycotts are also incredibly simple to do. If you are unhappy with how a company operates, then all you have to do to make a boycott work is stop buying their products. All companies operate on the simple premise that the items they produce have a demand; that people want to buy what they have to sell. If the market for their item is to dry up, it becomes unsustainable to continue. Boycotting reduces the profit that a company receives and forces them to try and win back customers to their business. They can attempt to do this through

The COSY guide to ethical living

offering special deals, or they can address the root causes of why people have stopped purchasing their products, and that would mean they have to address whatever unethical practice they are currently undertaking. This of course requires there to be a large number of people partaking in a boycott for there to be a change in the practice of a company. One person boycotting NestlĂŠ for what they believe is aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes in the developing world will have nowhere near the same effect as the current situation where twenty countries as well as thousands of other people are engaged in a boycott against NestlĂŠ55. There is strength in numbers, and the internet is your friend. If you come across a company who act in a way that makes you really mad, tell someone about it, and encourage them to join you in a boycott. Facebook, tweet and blog about what you are doing and why, and invite others to join you in your quest. Once you have got the ball moving, you will start to enact real change.


Boycotting calls for a great deal of sacrifice and commitment. If you say that you will not eat a Nestlé product until the international campaign against them56 has come to an end, then you will miss out on a lot of Smarties with your morning break. But it doesn’t have to be that way, there will be many alternative companies who are ethical (or more ethical at least) who will produce a Smarties equivalent. Keep your eyes open, and when you find one spread their name around. Just as you boycott unethical companies and keep them from raking in the profits, be sure to reward those companies who are both ethical and make good things with your hard earned cash.

Chapter five.


Boycotting has a reputation surrounding it for having to stand outside shops and supermarkets with signs telling people what they should and shouldn’t buy. That doesn’t have to be the case. If, like Melissa, you are passionate about your money not supporting the abuse of people or the world, then boycotting could help you to make a difference in the world about you.

Some simple steps to boycotting: Research the company and know what they do that is unethical. Stop buying things that company make.

Make sure people know what you are doing – especially the company. Find the number on the internet or on their products and call them to let them know why (as much as you’d like to) you can’t buy their s tuff anymore. Keep on facebooking, tweeting and blogging. Find alternative products and promote them. Congratulations. You just changed the world.

54 55 56

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/boycott?q=boycott See www.ibfan.org/fact-nestle.html for more details Ibid


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As Melissa walks to college one morning, she passes by a homeless man asking for money. She has seen this man a few times before and has thought about stopping to give him some loose change, but has never done so because she’s not sure if it’d be the right thing to do. So Melissa decides to spend a little bit of time looking into things both online and on public notice boards. The COSY guide to ethical living


What is homelessness? Strictly speaking, homelessness means to be ‘of no fixed abode’, so although most commonly associated with homelessness, you do not have to be sleeping rough on the streets to be homeless - some other situations which fall under the same definition are: staying with friends or family a lot or all of the time, staying in hostels, living in overcrowded conditions57.

Why/How do people become homeless? People become homeless because: ■

They have been kicked out of their home (often teenagers or as a result of a family split - for your typical ‘husband, wife and 2 kids family’ it is usually the man that leaves while the woman stays with the children at the residence). They simply lack the basic skills58 to support accommodation (e.g. cannot cook, clean, don’t know how to write a CV or don’t have personal details to put down for it etc. and just fall apart without these). Of other breakdowns of the family (caused by, for example, drug abuse or increasingly dissonant relations. Issues like these result in the neglect and isolation of individuals).

There are other causes of homelessness too, but those listed above are the most frequent cases (excluding asylum seekers/undocumented immigrants - which are covered under a separate section of this guide). In addition, there is quite a strong gender bias in homelessness - it tends to happen to men significantly more than women59.

Why should I care? I should care about it because: ■

It could happen to anyone (yes, even YOU – the future is impossible to predict). ■ As a Christian this is something we are called to do something about (as exemplified in the “Parable of the Good Samaritan”). ■ Everyone (regardless of whether they are homeless or not) deserves an equal opportunity in life - it is a basic human right60.


What can I do about it? When you pass a homeless person in the street, even if you can only afford seconds of your time, you can acknowledge their presence (simply by saying ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning’ in passing - the value of social contact cannot be underestimated). It is advisable to be hesitant about giving money; while it may not be ideal to go about judging someone’s character there are many homeless people for whom any money received will go towards fuelling an addiction rather than on food and shelter. There are better ways to help such as: ■

Offering to buy food and/or drink (ideally water). ■ Recommending nearby services such as Glasgow City Mission (for Glasgow) or somewhere else that can offer help61. ■ By volunteering your time to an organisation that works to support homeless people. ■ By giving money to an organisation that works to support homeless people. ■ By raising awareness (through promotion - online or in the real world via posters, word of mouth) The COSY guide to ethical living

For information on housing, see: http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/ advice_topics/paying_for_a_home/ housing_and_council_tax_benefit/changes_ to_housing_benefit_for_council_and_ housing_association_tenants#Bedroom tax - from April 2013 http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/ feb/18/illegal-use-bandbs-house-homeless And for information on benefits changes, see: http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/ advice_topics/paying_for_a_home/ housing_and_council_tax_benefit/a_cap_ on_benefits_from_april_2013#Benefits cap

What is being done about it already? Aside from the many organisations (GCM, Shelter and the Bethany Christian Trust to name but a few) playing their role in helping to tackle homelessness, the Scottish Government has set its sights on reducing poverty62: the original intent being to eradicate it within Scotland, but it is becoming more and more apparent that this is simply not going to happen the way things are just now63.

Another thing worth taking note of: For information on the effects of the ‘Welfare Reform Act’ and general changes to the way benefits are now distributed (with regards to homelessness).

http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/ get_advice/advice_topics/paying_ for_a_home/housing_and_council_ tax_benefit/universal_credit_from_ october_2013#Benefits/Universal credit changes from October 2013 Having researched homelessness in her area Melissa discovers a nearby soup kitchen and some other local services. The next time she sees the homeless man she talks to him, informing him of these nearby amenities and ends up accompanying him the short distance there leaving him in the care of some volunteers. Melissa reflects that there really wasn’t any need to have been so hesitant about approaching the man in the first place and that actually it wasn’t very difficult to help someone on the street, but it is useful to know of somewhere that can supply these people with the basic necessities and put them up during the night n

http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/advice_topics/homelessness?id=hp example from GCM on difficulties www.glasgowcitymission.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=86&Itemid=100 http://theses.gla.ac.uk/1581/1/2002cramerphd.pdf - the table on p78, although it is clear to see that this is still the case today if you just go into any of the local homelessness organisations’ buildings on any given day. 60 http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/advice_topics/homelessness/homeless_peoples_rights 61 www.bethanychristiantrust.com/?page_id=1775 - Edinburgh, www.stirling.gov.uk/services/housing/housing-advice/housing-advice-for- homeless-people-Stirling (though the local council sites are all useful wherever you are), 61 www.grampiancaredata.gov.uk/home?sobi2Task=sobi2Details&catid=171&sobi2Id=88 - Aberdeen. 62 www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/919/0102138.pdf 63 www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18786883 57 58 59

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asylum see & refugees

After thinking about her attitude to homeless people, Melissa begins to wonder if she also needs to rethink some of the myths she has heard about asylum seekers. Thankfully she came across a wonderful resource that helps her to dispel some of what she has heard64. This parody news article comes from the Iona Community65 and the UNITY Centre Glasgow66 who work with asylum seekers. A selection of the myths and facts are included below, but have a look at the original if you want to find out more.

Myth: Britain gets more asylum seekers than any other country

Wrong! The UK ranks only seventh out of the

‘westernised’ countries of the world. The US, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Belgium received more asylum seekers than the UK did in 2011.


Leviticus 19: 33&34

Fact: Globally, poor countries in the south

take the most refugees. Pakistan has the largest number of refugees in the world followed by Iran and Syria. These three countries look after more than a third of the 10.4 million refugees that exist in the world today. Globally, Afghanistan and Iraq have the largest number of people seeking asylum.

Myth: More and more come here every day, and no one stops them!

Wrong again! Over the last decade there has been a massive reduction in the number of asylum seekers arriving in the UK. Since 2002 the number of asylum seekers coming into the UK has dropped by three quarters.

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Protection Programme by which refugees registered by the United Nations are allowed to live in Britain. In 2007 only 465 refugees were allowed in, 355 in 2006, 70 in 2005 and 150 in 2004. The Gateway Protection Programme is the only way people registered as refugees can come into the UK.

Myth: They only come here because of our generous benefits system.

Not so! A recent study showed that three

quarters of asylum seekers had no knowledge of welfare benefits and support before coming to the UK and did not expect to get any support at all.

Fact: Single asylum seekers in the UK have

to survive on £37.77 a week – 30p below the poverty line – while couples without children and single adults under 25 receive less than £30 a week each.

Fact: There are several EU countries, including

Ireland, Belgium and Denmark, which offer more financial support than the UK does. A recent report for the European Commission concluded that ‘push factors’ such as war and repression far outweigh ‘pull factors’ such as economic hardship or Europe’s benefits systems in determining why people leave their home countries to seek asylum in the EU.

Fact: In 2002 there were over eighty thousand asylum applications in the UK. In 2011 there were fewer than twenty six thousand.

Myth: They don’t need to come here and we don’t have any responsibility for them

Wrong! The two largest groups of refugees in the world are from Afghanistan and Iraq. Both these countries are suffering through problems that stem from the wars being waged there which Britain has direct responsibility for.

After hearing these myths, Melissa quickly logs on to http://iona.org.uk/wordpress/wpcontent/uploads/downloads/2013/03/12myths.pdf and reads all about the myths surrounding asylum seekers, as well as learning the difference between ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘refugees’. She realises that those seeking asylum are caught between a rock and a hard place and promises herself that whenever she hears one of these myths being shared as a truth, she will challenge it directly. She does it because the truth will set you free n

Fact: Britain takes a tiny proportion of refugees out of the 10.4 million refugees in the world. In 2011 there were only 640 officially registered refugees allowed into the UK under the Gateway

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64 http://iona.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads downloads/2013/03/12-myths.pdf 65 http://iona.org.uk/ 66 http://unitycentreglasgow.org/



Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The virus attacks the immune system, and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the final stage of HIV infection, when a person’s immune system can no longer fight lifethreatening infections. There is no cure for HIV, but there are treatments to enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life.

How is HIV spread? HIV is not spread as easily as some other viruses, like colds or the flu. HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person, which includes semen and vaginal fluids, blood, inside the anus and breast milk. HIV cannot be transmitted by saliva alone but the saliva of a person with HIV can be infectious if it contains blood or other body fluids. According to statistics from the Health Protection Agency, 95% of those diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2010 acquired HIV as a result of sexual contact67. Other ways of getting HIV include using a contaminated needle, syringe or other injecting equipment to inject drugs or by transmission from mother to baby, before or during birth, or through breastfeeding. Because some of the ways to contract HIV involve sexual intercourse, and risks are higher in people with multiple sexual partners, there has often been a lot of stigma around HIV, with people focusing on the idea that infected individuals must be sexually promiscuous. This is unfair, as some people contract the disease as babies. It is important not to think about HIV as being the patient’s fault and to avoid blaming infected individuals or making judgments about sexual lifestyles.

Treatment HIV is treated with anti-retrovirals (ARVs), which work against the HIV infection by slowing down the spread of the virus in the body – usually three different medicines with different mechanisms of action are taken simultaneously. ARV’s are very successful at combating HIV, and if treatment is started early, life expectancy for HIV-infected people can be as high as for the general public. Trials from across several European countries found death rates from AIDS have fallen by 80% since 1997 when the regime was introduced68. ARVs have been made widely available in the developed world. However, they are expensive, and this combined with logistical problems concerning their distribution has meant that they have been denied to millions of people in the developing world. People have often been critical of pharmaceutical companies for charging such high prices for anti-retroviral drugs, and think that they should make these life-saving medicines free. Pharmaceuticals companies, however, spend a great deal of money developing these types of drugs (the average price of developing a drug from start to finish is around £2 billion), and argue that they need to keep prices high in order to pay for developing new agents. Despite this, the price of anti-retroviral therapy seems to have decreased significantly in recent years, which has improved the health of many. If you want to learn about how cheaper medicine has been provided and what still needs to be done, this website has an excellent article: http://www.avert.org/ generic.htm. Melissa resolves to find out more about this issue with her friends to see what she can do. Her first port of call will be with the Church of Scotland HIV programme n 67 68


www.nhs.uk/Conditions/HIV/Pages/Introduction.aspx http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3210669.stm

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Having journeyed with Melissa through everything from food miles to Asylum seekers and ethical banking to boycotting, we hope that you (like Melissa) have a slightly better understanding of what it means to be ethical and how you can apply what you’ve learned to your own life. Whether that means making the smallest of changes like switching to buying more Fairtrade items when doing your shopping, drinking tap water instead of buying bottled water or indeed making a bigger change by implementing a couple of the ideas laid out in this Idiot’s Guide to Ethical Living.

A huge thank you...

However, this Guide is by no means definitive. It’s your responsibility to follow some of the links included in each of the stories and use them to explore the issues discussed to make a difference in your own life and also others too.

to all the contributors for giving up their time to research, write and compile this guide as a way of helping us all to live more ethically. Robert Kimmitt Chris Long Sarah MacDonald Michael Mair Lynsey Martin Euan Patterson Lynzy Plews Ben Raw Alastair Ross Gillean Richmond Jacqueline Stables Kirsty Watson Kim Wood

If you’ve enjoyed reading this guide, why not pass it on to your friends and family and share with others how easy it is to live a more ethical life? Trying to live ethically might be seen to be awkward, a bit niche and something which requires more time and effort than most people feel they have to spare. But simply making the effort to research a clothing outlet or coffee shop just to check that everyone is getting the best deal is well worth your while. Hopefully you have seen throughout this Guide that living more ethically is perfectly possible. It will give you a sense of fulfillment and happiness that you’ve managed to change the world in some way, even if you can’t see it happening in front of you n

The COSY guide to ethical living


Please contact: Suzi Farrant Children and Young People Development Worker Mission and Discipleship Council The Church of Scotland 121 George Street Edinburgh EH2 4YN Tel: 0131 225 5722 Email: sfarrant@cofscotland.org.uk

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COSY guide to ethical living  

A guide to ethical living written for young people by young people in the Church of Scotland

COSY guide to ethical living  

A guide to ethical living written for young people by young people in the Church of Scotland

Profile for cofsyouth