What is Real Profit?

We have to choose between a global market driven only by calculations of short-term profit, and one which has a human face.
~Kofi Annan

My personal mantra is that individuals will profit if they find purpose in their work. Similarly, I believe only purpose can drive a company to profit both monetarily and in the wider sense of the word.

When I read Kerry Hughes' article “From Organic and Natural to Fair Trade” in the May 2006 issue of Prepared Foods, I was astonished to learn about labor crises around the world, the worst of which can be exampled by child slave labor—a practice found on many chocolate plantations in Africa and other equatorial countries.

I am by no means a conscientious consumer, and I believe I represent the majority of Americans. I do not go out of my way to buy products that are organic, fair-trade or more humane to animals. I want my food unique, yet convenient and cheap. Nevertheless, through my research as an editor at Prepared Foods magazine, I am realizing I am part of the problem.

I am beginning to think that as a resident of a developed country such as the U.S., I am no better than the insensitive “belles” who lived on luxurious slave plantations in the 1800s. Back then, they callously benefited from the unwaged labor of the less fortunate to better afford the charms of “civility.” The unfortunate truth is that even in 2006, inhumane practices that take place in South America, Asia, Africa or right here in the U.S., make my life more comfortable.

Many people felt (and continue to feel now) resistance is futile; the bottom line will always reign supreme over human life and the environment. The world has not found it practical to cultivate true civility.

It is true that some companies manipulate their operations and financial structure so as to not only compete with their competitors, but also to more easily live with their own consciences. All across the food industry, there are CEOs and employees who operate both multi-national and mom-and-pop companies out of concern for social issues. Right now, these companies are celebrated within a niche community, but the tide is turning. Not everyone knowingly and willingly wants to benefit from social injustices. Most people just don't know the truth. However, like myself, average consumers are becoming more aware of how their purchases affect the world at large, and we are searching for products that genuinely reflect that concern.