It's a well-known fact that the consequence of globalization and international trade is that our stores are overflowing with products from far and wide, often sold at affordable prices. In fact, we'd go so far as to say they're completely ridiculous: a T-shirt for $5! Have you ever thought about how this is possible? Growing or extracting it, processing it, transporting it, storing it, selling it for just $5...
The Observatoire de la consommation responsable, a consumer watchdog organization, has published the 2016 Responsible Consumption Barometer. According to the latter, local consumption is a fairly stable practice, increasing slightly, with the index rising from 69.1% in 2010 to 71.3% in 2016. However, among the top 25 items favored by Quebecers for local purchases, no clothing items appear.
The local character of a product is not the only argument influencing consumers. Price is also a sensitive factor. This was the finding of a survey conducted by The Harris Poll for Yellow Pages in Canada. In 2016, 67% of respondents stated that higher prices were the main disadvantage of buying local. A difference as small as 5% would reduce the number of Canadians wishing to store locally by a third.
But what are the arguments in favor of local products? In fact, there are many advantages to buying local! The many arguments include global economic, social, environmental and sustainability aspects.
Regional economic development
By encouraging local purchasing, the regional economy is bound to grow. Indeed, the more purchases increase, the more jobs are created. Favoring local purchasing thus enables profits to be redistributed in the community through income for employees. It also enables new initiatives to develop: new stores, fairs, sponsorships...
Équiterre did the math for us. If all Quebec families replaced $20 a week in purchases of goods from outside the province with the same value in local purchases, it would seem that 100,000 jobs would be created in a single year.
By buying local, we have the privilege of being part of a community and of having a privileged contact with the company we support. Although their marketing campaigns would have us believe it, it's not with a multinational that we can develop this sense of belonging!
An important social aspect to consider is the working conditions of all the workers assigned to a good. We all know about the deplorable working conditions in some countries. In Canada, although still imperfect, workers are governed by working conditions that guarantee them a healthier environment and a more adequate wage.
When it comes to buying local, the environmental cost is usually focused on the transportation of imported goods. For example, a simple sweater could have traveled up to 9,000 km before being displayed on a store shelf. While this situation is worrying, reducing transport is not the only thing to consider.
In addition to transport, there is the impact of production to consider. Let's take the example of garment dyeing. Here, although we live in an imperfect system, we have increasingly strict rules on the toxicity of the products used and on their discharge into the environment. This is not the case in many countries, such as China and Bangladesh.
Quality and personalized service
You're just a few clicks away from ordering a property overseas. However, it's important to understand that in most cases, when you make a local purchase, you're much more likely to get personalized service that perfectly meets your needs. We tested it. We asked a few Chinese suppliers a question about the size of a garment. We got a 50% response, and we can't say that all the answers were understandable or related to our initial question!
Buying locally will put you in touch with manufacturers and retailers. This allows you to get personalized service, but also to validate the quality of the products. If you buy something online from a local merchant and it doesn't suit you, you'll have every opportunity to return it to the merchant.
As you've already seen, buying local is part of Quebecers' consumer habits, and this trend is set to continue over the next few years. We invite you to join the movement by considering everything you can get your hands on. Over the past few years, food has been the main focus. However, a multitude of other goods can be considered. From cleaning products, to clothing and accessories, to beauty products, toys and games...
There's no shortage of choices! Buy less, buy better!