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A study in the Wall Street Journal today says “corporate responsibility” is good business.

To a point.

A new study by a pair of Canadian scholars at the University of Western Ontario found that consumers were willing to pay a hefty premium for “ethically produced” coffee and T-shirts in a carefully controlled test.

The study was meant to measure the economic effect of products from companies with “progressive” corporate policies.

Study subjects were informed of corporate practices like encouraging diversity and a commitment to customer safety; environmentally friendly production and respect for human rights.

coffee.jpgThe study found consumers were willing to pay a 64 percent premium for “good” coffee, above the price for menace-to-society coffee.

But the difference between products isn’t usually that clear.

The study found that “good” coffee fetched only a 17 percent premium over coffee that the consumers knew nothing about.

And then things get really interesting.

The price premium for “good” T-shirts, labeled as 100 percent organic cotton, was found to be only 6 percent above the price for a shirt without any distinction. But the premium price difference between a 100 percent organic shirt and a 25 percent organic shirt is a measly 2 percent.

The bottom line: it pays to be good, but it looks like you only have to be a little good to be paid.

  • IKNOWBEANS

    //The bottom line: it pays to be good, but it looks like you only have to be a little good to be paid.//

    the idea of living “green” has been around for at least 10 years and it is only catching on now.

    i think that being socially responisible in your personal consumption-regardless of price-will catch on as well, it just takes alittle time and before you know it the Walmarts and other Big Box Nightmares will be belly up.

  • SKATERSWITHACONSCIOUS

    To Tim Nelson:

    You put the idea on conscious consuming out into ‘society’. thank you.

    I know that I have taken a bite of your idea anyway.

    I never put ALOT of thought into it. I have to admit I stay away from the Walmarts and other bottom feeders like it. But after reading your article I hopped online to check out some of the companies that I just made purchases from. SKIN INDUSTRIES (skater bmx label), I bought a hat on Friday from Zumies- Zumiez does not promote any notion of being corporately responsible but on the SKIN INDUSTRIES site, hugely community active and aware. Kudos to them!

  • Emily

    I was reading the finalist essays of those individuals that participated in the “Great American Think-Off” regarding the question, “does immigration strengthen or threaten the United States?” and I wanted to respond with my own ruminations of sorts.

    Anyone who has ever been on any sort of road trip across America knows that any small town that they visit or travel through, proudly broadcast on billboards and signs, “Polish Days,” “Oktoberfest” or other such celebrations. What people fail to forget is that these celebrations are really celebrations of the immigrants that settled in their towns and cities.

    As I was reading through the essays, a statement by Craig Allen, one of the finalists, struck me as quite contradictory. Allen said, “Immigration threatens our identity as a nation. It inhibits our growth as a single people and dilutes our blossoming culture.” What???

    If Allen’s statement is true, then those fairs and festivals that inundate the summer months are not about those that built our communities-but a basic exercise in futility? As a person of Irish and German descendent, I know that they truly are not. They are a celebrations and honor ceremonies for their grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, mothers and fathers; their history, their present and their future.

    Immigration is our identity as a nation! In fact, the first people living in Minnesota and the upper Midwest were Indigenous Peoples, and the state of Minnesota has had a long history of inclusion and welcome. For instance, according to a pamphlet from 1878, the state was commended for its “healthful climate…and demonstrated potential for agricultural production.” In fact, in the late 1800’s according to the Library of Congress, official election instructions were being written in nine languages.”

    So why do we suddenly feel threatened by immigration?

    Those newly arrived individuals only want a better life for their families. If they could live in their home countries, they most definitely would choose to do so. That was the impetus for migration in the early 20th century and continues to be so.

    In the end, it seems from all the research and writing that the nation was more inclusive and welcoming in the early stages of its development than in 2008. That is a sad state of regression-and instead of Minnesota being remembered and revered for its warmth and openness, it is instead succumbing to fear, stereotype and prejudice-something for which no one wants to leave as a legacy.