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Ethical Consumer Week 2020: Building resilient communities

Our first ever Ethical Consumer Week, supported by The Co-operative Bank, explored the question: What is the role of ethical production and consumption in building more resilient communities?

Ethical Consumer Week brought together individuals, businesses and organisations online to explore not only the challenges we currently face, but what a radically reimagined future might look like and the actions we can all take to get there.

We heard from those exploring the answers and already creating ripples of change.

The final plenary session from the week

The final plenary session from the week

Building resilient communities

The last year has underlined the significance of our communities. Healthy communities offer solidarity and support and can be integral when responding to crisis.

But the health of our communities now faces challenges like never before. Around the world, they are dealing with the fallout from Covid-19, climate change, ecological breakdown, social injustice and growing corporate power.

Ethical Consumer Week 2020 asked: What role can ethical consumption and production play in ensuring that our communities are resilient? Healthy? Adaptive? And can meet the needs of healthy people, other animals and the planet?

Our consumption and production

Current ways of producing, consuming and trading threaten the health of habitats, workers, and communities.

In Canada, tar sands pipelines projects - backed by some major UK banks - are forcing Indigenous communities to leave their lands, threatening their water supplies with oil spills and pollution and fuelling global climate breakdown. In southern Spain, the failures of governments and employers mean that communities of migrant workers face cramped living conditions with no running water during the coronavirus pandemic. Around the world, tax avoidance is depriving communities of much needed public money to build our public services.

Throughout Ethical Consumer Week, we heard from organisations about the role that unjust consumption, production and trading practices play in the crises currently faced.

But in each of these instances, communities are also pushing back - often at the centre of attempts to transform our unhealthy practices. This is true from activist communities resisting mining and extractive industries in Romania to those that are using urban growing to change our food systems in the UK.

Transformational communities

The current crises expose the failure of our existing capitalist system; but the examples above also show the existence of alternative approaches that suggest we could have a radically different future. With the failure of political institutions and for-profit business to offer a sustainable solution, many communities are trying to change the system from the bottom up.

This might look like a grassroots community garden in south London. Or REconomy, the initiative in Totnes exploring options for economic regeneration. There are already many inspiring examples to learn from.

In turn, these positive forms of consumption and production practices can make our communities healthier. They provide physical spaces, different relationships and economic systems that can support not only in responding to crisis but also in day-to-day life.