Social Justice and the Price Club: Great Things You Didn’t Know About Costco
Costco: A Price Club with a Conscience
Fair Wages, Happy Workers
Industrial-organizational psychologists have been telling us for decades that happy workers who feel secure in their positions do better work. A quick glance at the job market in corporate America makes it clear that few employers have paid attention. Costco, however, is a price club of a different color. Recent surveys indicate that employees at the nationwide chain are happier on average than workers at many other companies, including some of the top players in Silicon Valley. According to CEO Craig Jelinek, in 2013, Costco paid a “starting hourly wage of $11.50 in all states where we do business.” Additionally, at a time when retailers like Walmart, Target and Trader Joe’s are decreasing employee benefits, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that 88 percent of Costco employees have company-sponsored healthcare coverage.
These are some great reasons to shop at Costco. As a customer myself, I enjoy the cheery staff and great service I get at my local store. People I know who shop at both Costco and their primary competitor, Sam’s Club, have frequently mentioned that Costco consistently provides better service with comparable pricing. While fair treatment of employees is an important aspect of any company, Costco goes even farther in the line of social justice to help concerned citizens of our planet do good when shopping.
Locally Grown Produce
Local Goods and Produce
During a recent trip to Costco, I was surprised to learn that Costco carries locally grown and produced merchandise. As I turned my cart down an aisle in the grocery section, a cheerful man offered me a sample of chunky applesauce. It was delicious! As I savored the morsels of fruit, he mentioned that the applesauce was from a local orchard. I had no idea that Costco purchased local foodstuffs, but I soon became aware that this is one of the many socially responsible activities in which the company participates. No, customers can’t always get the exact same products every time we visit Costco, but we can get local items in season.
Million Bowls Fights Hunger with Costco
Feeding America at Costco
On another recent shopping trip, I was browsing the aisles to find some gluten-free cereal for my family. There on the shelves sat a display of Abundance Cherry Almond Crunch from MOM Brands. Unfortunately, I couldn’t purchase the cereal because it includes wheat, but I was happy to notice the advertisement for the company’s Million Bowls® program. This program provides cereal to Americans in need through affiliate food banks in several states. Naturally, Costco’s competitors sell MOM Brands, and consumers can purchase products that support the Million Bowls® program elsewhere, but it struck me that products like this solidly support the culture of social justice at Costco.
Further perusal of shelves in the grocery section of Costco indicates that they regularly stock products that promote global conservation efforts and social justice. When purchasing coffee in bulk, customers can choose from several fair-trade options. Although Costco does care a variety of chocolate products, careful consumers can get fair-trade cocoa products as well.
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World Crafts and Social Justice
On the same shopping trip during which I discovered the MOM Brands cereal, I happened upon DeeDee and Krenda. They were diligently working to set up a display of jewelry and baskets, all of which were handcrafted by women from Africa. This surprised me even more than the local produce I discovered in the grocery section, and it excited me. Over a year prior to this shopping trip, I had written a series of articles for a client on the topic “shopping for good.” The beads and jewelry in the display at my local Costco were made by some of the Ugandan women about whom I had written.
Fair-Trade African Crafts at Costco
For decades, Ugandan women have been crafting gorgeous colored beads from recycled paper. A few non-profit organizations have begun programs through which these women can earn a livable wage from their handicraft. These programs also provide education and entrepreneurial training to Ugandan women. The paper beads, which the women use to make fashionable necklaces, bracelets and earrings, are marketed all over the world, and each piece of jewelry comes with information about the artist who created it.
The Rwandan baskets that Krenda and DeeDee had for sale come from Rwanda Partners. This program works to support the healing and reconciliation of people in the war-torn country of Rwanda. The following video shares more information about this program.
Limitations and Shopper Awareness
While it is possible to buy local products and items that support social justice and global awareness at Costco, the company also carries products made in China and produced by companies that are not as socially responsible as those mentioned above. For some shoppers, this might be a deal breaker. For me, it simply means that I need to remain aware of the purchases I make, even at a great store like Costco.
For those reading this who have believed that socially responsible shopping has to cost more, I hope you are encouraged by learning about all the options available at Costco. You can buy food to feed your family and support the local economy by shopping at Costco, and you can get gifts for loved ones that will benefit people around the world. If you want to do good while shopping, perhaps it is time to visit your local Costco.