A workshop on responsible consumption amid the shelves of the supermarket. It was the proposal of the Italian youth section of the Economy of Communion for its annual summer LoppianoLab.
di Maria Gaglione
Put the heads of a group of teenagers together having taken part in the recent annual workshop in Loppiano, and one keyword emerges: “participation.” In view of this, the Youth Section of the Economy of Communion (EoC) launched on the social network and among their friends a workshop called “Inside the LABel.” At the conclusion of the day which the Bonfanti Industrial Park had dedicated to the topics of economy and work, the participants left the meeting hall and the filled cars that were waiting to take them to the nearby Coop Supermarket in the town of Figline. A table was set up at the entrance of the superstore along with ballot boxes. Then, an innovative experiment began that lasted for two hours, a genuine voting campaign. The five candidates were: pasta, coffee, chocolate, canned tuna and oranges.
“But what does democracy have to do with a supermarket?” someone asked. “It does, it has a lot to do…” said one of the organizers named Chiara. “Using our wallets, we exert our “buying power.” The “vote with our wallet” is just one example of civil responsibility. Whenever we buy a product we express a preference, we support the work of a business that produces the product, a particular business model, a mission, a series of internal processes, a certain type of managing of relationships with employees and providers, a certain type of impact on the environment.”
“After a meeting with Luigino Buni on the relationship between democracy and market,” says Stefania, “we worked for nearly three months examining the ‘vision’ and ‘mission’ of small and large brands at around 20 businesses. Following indicators such as transparency, production chain, respect for the environment, social responsibility, corporate form and legal record, we gathered data and information that were published on the web.”
“It was an interesting and enriching challenge,” continues Francesca, “which revealed a complexity of ethics, values and conventions that influence our daily purchases. As we moved ahead and our awareness increased, we came up with a project that we could share. The role of civil responsibility, being critical consumers and becoming aware that one’s own purchases, can influence the behaviour of large and small businesses. This is why we came up with a project that we call “Inside the Label.” This year’s LoppianoLab seemed like the opportunity to present it.”
Andrea interrupts: “Based on the materials that were collected, we chose three products from different brands for each category, trying to highlight the nuances in terms of transparency, pricing, commitment and quality. We left it to the participants to choose the products they would buy, after having shared with them the tools for reading the labels also for “moral calories” and “ethical sugars.” It was a project that took nothing for granted, but stuck to reality.
Like every respectable voting campaign, the votes are anticipated by a talk show prepared and broadcast by the organizers at the entrance of the Coop. Each of them presents his or her own candidate, along with comments from a citizen-consumer. Then, the participants are provided with a shopping sack, a voting card and the addresses of a web site which was created for the occasion. The aisles of the Co-op, with its usual Saturday family shoppers, were also filled with shoppers who were carefully re-reading labels.
After paying the cashier, the final democratic duty of political responsibility was to mark an “X” beside the products one had chosen and to drop it into the ballot box. Then there were interviews, photos, surveys and data collection. There were more than a hundred voters, but far many more things to think about.
In the meantime, the Italian Constituent of the EoC is already planning a second “Inside the LABel” event at Castel Gandolfo, Italy, on the occasion of the International Prophetic Economy, Event (November 2-4). Deep down, we’re all change-makers.