I must admit that I got a chuckle out of Tim Minahan's post about buying a Gap project Red t-shirt that was marked down something like 90%. In his write-up, Tim notes that he has "no insight into what it cost The Gap to buy materials, manufacture, ship, stock, and promote the shirt. But it doesn't take a math major to realize that the drastically reduced sale price doesn’t leave much profit to fund the RED donation chain described above. Knowing The Gap, they likely fully funded the program anyway, taking a loss. While truly altruistic, this type of program is not sustainable -- in the literal sense - for any business."
While I'm coming to agree more with Tim's viewpoint on environmentally sustainable sourcing practices -- yes, even stubborn bloggers can change their perspective when it comes to the environment -- I must say that I still don't believe that the majority of consumers will pay premiums for products based on the supply chain practices of retailers (organic food products being an exception). Maybe a different type of change is needed.
In fact, the more examples like this I see, I'm guessing that top-down driven sustainability efforts will be the only way to effect permanent, lasting change. But as someone who typically believes in smaller government, I sincerely hope that that this change comes from industry versus politicians with their own agendas and special interests. PS, Tim ... I spent $12 bucks a pound -- 3x what I usually spend at Costco -- last week on an awesome pound of coffee purchased I purchased from a Chicago importer and roaster. While it was not a "fair traded" product – which is against my sourcing religion -- I have no doubt the growers in Columbia were more than fairly compensated for producing a vastly superior product purchased directly from the farmers who made it rather than a middle man. Now that is the free market at work at 5:30 in the morning!