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WA Customers Expect Businesses to Have a Conscience

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October 26, 2007

Kirkland, WA – Picketers that showed up recently in front of a major Seattle-based department store chain underscore the fact that companies importing supplies and products from overseas have to pay a lot more attention to the working conditions and environmental rules in those countries -- or risk the wrath of consumers and negative publicity.

Increasingly, however, there are retailers that not only do business overseas, but have improved the working conditions of their foreign suppliers. Mary Rose of the Network for Business Innovation and Sustainability in Kirkland explains, while it may not be easy, it is possible.

"This is a leading edge area for sustainable businesses, and one that, for a variety of reasons, companies do find more difficult to manage. I think the important thing for consumers to understand is that it's a complex and difficult area for businesses, so it is critical that they be supportive of companies that are making progress."

Rose says many of today's customers decide to shop, or boycott, depending on a company's social conscience. She adds that outsourcing has made it much harder for companies to keep an eye on what their international suppliers are doing.

Washington is home to several businesses making groundbreaking efforts in fair labor practices. At a seminar on Monday, October 29 in Seattle, they'll share tips on how they manage these overseas business relationships. Speakers at the Monday's "Codes of Conduct for Suppliers" seminar include managers from REI and Pacific Market International. More information is available online at www.NBIS.org.

Chris Thomas/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WA