We’ve been answering a lot of questions lately about why North American made products are important to us, why we try to avoid products made in China, and why we don’t carry a $5.00 pocket diaper. The full answers aren’t simple because we weigh a lot of issues as we choose products for our store.
Give It to Me Quick
Cheaper products sometimes carry hidden costs to labour, safety, quality, environment, and sustainability of your community.
High Quality and Good Value
Every product we carry and every company we work with has to meet basic standards. Some meet even higher standards, which we mark with our Safe Family Promise. Meeting those higher standards of quality, ethics, and sustainability can sometimes mean products cost more. Sometimes, not always.
When I hear, “I’m so excited about the deal I got,” I wonder to myself, “At what cost?” Did someone else pay by not being compensated fairly for their labor? Will you pay when you have to buy a new product to replace this one? Will the farmer downstream and that farmer’s customers pay because of environmental violations? Will your baby pay if it turns out this product isn’t safe? What is the real cost of that cheap import? Some of these costs come back around later.
Every family I know works to keep their expenses low. At Eco Baby Steps, we write posts about DIY and saving money while keeping your family healthy and happy. We emphasize not buying all of the stuff of parenting that gets pushed on you but focusing on reusable, high quality products that will last. We are careful about what we buy for ourselves and what we promote to you. We understand the need to save money. We still find the price of buying ethical products worth it.
One of the ways we do our best to ensure that products meet high standards is by buying as close to home as possible where we can see who is making products and how.
China-made products have become a hot issue. We hear stories of violation of intellectual property, of international labor violations, and of low quality. We don’t assume that every product made in China has issues, and China-made is not the only issue that concerns us at all, but it has been talked about quite a bit in the juvenile products industry, so we remain concerned.
bynature.ca does carry a handful of products made in China. This is often driven by consumer demand or a demand for lower pricing. If our customers can show us a better product they would buy instead, we will always consider this.
We look for local first, made in Canada next, and made in USA third as our order of values, when we search for new products. If we are unable to find a North American supplier for a product that is supportive of families, the environment, and a safer alternative than mainstream items, we will look at alternate suppliers.
We ask our suppliers a number of hard-hitting questions, and while we may not always like the answers, it’s important to us that we have these answers for our customers, so they can make the choices they are most comfortable with. When we consider new products that are made in China, sometimes by North-American based brands, these are a few of the questions we ask:
- Do you own your own facility in China?
- How much time have you spent in China at this facility, and how many times a year do you return?
- Are you paying your foreign employees directly, or is the facility responsible for payment/treatment of workers?
- What is the average pay of your employees working in China?
- Are there other products being manufactured out of this facility, or only your product? Are the same employees responsible for manufacturing other products, and are they compensated for this fairly?
- Are your products third-party tested for safety?
- Are your products free from known toxins, such as BPA, PVC, phthalates, lead and other heavy metals, melamine, chemical flame retardants, parabens and other harsh chemicals?
The safety, quality and ethics behind the products we recommend are very important to our customers and our company, and we hope this is something our manufacturers have considered when developing their products. We prefer to work with manufacturers who have high standards. We may still choose to carry a line that is made overseas, but we hope that by asking the hard-hitting questions, those manufacturers realize these things matter to us.
Made Closer to Home
Would we prefer to carry only products that are made in Canada? Absolutely! Unfortunately, we have yet to find products like stainless steel and glass made in Canada, and the price for organic cotton products made in Canada has skyrocketed. A supplier of our hemp products has recently informed us that they will no longer be manufacturing because the cost is just too high. Some of our favourite North American-made products eventually take production overseas (as is the case with the fall Goodbyn production), and it doesn’t mean we will remove it from our product mix. We will, however, continue to look for and put emphasis on our North American products when we talk to customers in our store, or feature them on our website. (Shout out to Laptop Lunches for keeping production in the USA!)
We consider products on a case-by-case basis to ensure we’re meeting the needs of our customers and providing them with enough options that they can find what they’re looking for.
Know the Issues
We want you to understand the basic issues that concern us with production away from home, away from the consistent scrutiny of regulations intended to uphold basic standards of labour, safety, quality, and environmental responsibility. We want you to understand how we see these issues as connected to genuine sustainability.
Over the next month, we will post about one of these issues each week, giving you a quick run down on the issues, the consequences, who is working on the issue around the world, and where you can go for more information. We hope you will share what you know as well. We make choices for bynature.ca based on your needs.
Made in Canada means a product was manufactured or processed in Canada.
Product of Canada means a product was manufactured or processed in Canada AND all or virtually all of the ingredients or components are Canadian in origin.
Labelling is similar in the United States.
A recent consumer survey on “Made in USA” found that 83% of shoppers notice a “Made in USA” label and 3 of 4 say they are more likely to buy that product after they notice the label. 76% of those surveyed also noticed “Made in China” labels, but only 57% of them said they were less likely to buy after seeing the label because of safety and quality concerns. We don’t have similar data on consumer attitudes toward “Made in Canada” labelling, but it appears that country of origin does matter to a majority of shoppers.
“2012 Survey Results: Made in the USA Matters to Shoppers,” Perception Research Services, September 12, 2012.
More in this series
- “Imports at What Cost? Labour”
- “Imports at What Cost? Safety”
- “Imports at What Cost? Quality”
- “Imports at What Cost? Environment”
- “Imports at What Cost? Sustainability”
- “15 North American Made Gift Ideas”