The intent of the Equity Petal is to transform the material and product economies to foster a true, inclusive sense of community that is just and equitable regardless of an individual’s background, age, class, race, gender or sexual orientation. A society— especially a modern-day, affluent consumer society—that embraces all sectors of humanity and allows the dignity of equal access and fair treatment is a society in the best position to make decisions that protect and restore the natural environment that sustains us all. This Petal goes well beyond the notion of corporate responsibility; it gives companies the opportunity to be leaders in creating a world that is better for all people, all over the world.
There is a disturbing trend toward “us” vs. “them” that gives disproportionate control to those of a certain economic or cultural background. Only by realizing that we are all in this together can the greatest environmental and social problems be addressed. We need to aggressively challenge the notion that factory ownership somehow implies that owners can do whatever they like, including externalize the negative environmental and health impacts of their actions thereby imposing it onto others.
For example, consider these situations: when a polluting factory is placed next to a residential community, the environmental burdens of its operation are placed on the individuals who live in the nearby houses. The factory is diminishing its neighbors’ rights to clean air, water and soil, yet solely profiting from this diminishment. Similarly, when a company does business with another enterprise whose business practices are unfair, unsafe and/or unsustainable, all positive effects of the former operation are diminished by the negative effects of the latter.
We need to prioritize the concept of ”citizen” above that of “consumer.”’ The Equity Petal requires the creation of goods via fair manufacturing and business practices as well as true socially responsible corporate oversight. It is essential that we recognize the business practices and welfare of the people that we support as we design and build our products. JUST™, the Institute’s social justice label, provides a publicly accessible online database with an official connection to the Equity Petal.37 JUST provides a powerful forum for helping product innovators and manufacturers share the values of a responsible, equitable Living Future.
Ideal Conditions and Current Limitations
The Living Product Challenge envisions consumer and industrial goods that allow equitable access and treatment to all people regardless of physical abilities, race, gender, sexual orientation, age or socioeconomic status.
Current limitations stem from ingrained cultural resistance to profitable enterprises sharing their wealth, as well as companies doing the right thing for their employees, their communities and the environment. The idea that the rights of corporations are equal to or greater than the rights of people needs to be replaced with an ethic that corporations are here to serve all people and not merely their shareholders—that the common good must be safeguarded in the pursuit of the private good.
It is necessary to change corporate standards in order to protect the rights of individuals who work for, live near or do business with manufacturing operations. At the same time, companies fortunate enough to realize profits must factor charitable giving into their normal expense budgets as recognition of the public benefits they enjoy. A healthy, diverse community is one that is supported by local enterprise, and is organized in a way that protects the health of people and the environment. Ultimately, we champion a future in which product manufacturers are highly profitable and successful, but not at the expense of the environment or any particular population
Products sold to consumers must be affordable to the people who manufacture them, and products used in buildings must not unduly impair the affordability of those buildings. Products can be grouped into three broad categories:
- Consumer products
- Building products
- Other (largely products used by manufacturers)
This Imperative currently applies to consumer products and building products only.
The Annualized Purchase Price (APP) should not exceed the relevant Product Category Share (PCS) of the income of the manufacturer’s lowest paid employee. The manufacturer must actively sell or promote the product within the community where its employees reside and make low-interest financing available to ensure wide and equitable access to high-efficiency and/or renewable-energy products that bring their users TCO benefits.
The product must be offered to affordable housing projects at price parity with similar products.
The manufacturer of the product must demonstrate consistent responsibility across its entire operations. The manufacturer cannot directly:
- Make weapons or armaments of any kind
- Produce tobacco products, pornography, violent video games, or illicit drugs
- Engage in fossil fuel extraction
- Engage in nuclear energy production or nuclear weapons manufacturing
- Engage in or facilitate prostitution, payday lending gambling or the patenting of life
- Charge interest rates significantly in excess of market peers for comparable offerings
For every dollar of gross revenue generated by the sale of the product through the 12-month performance period, the manufacturer must donate one-quarter of one cent to a charity of it’s choosing or contribute to the Institute’s Living Future Exchange program, which directly funds renewable infrastructure for charitable enterprises.
The product must help create a more just, equitable society through the transparent disclosure of the business practices of the company that manufacturers it. Product manufacturers are required to obtain a JUST label and to send JUST program information to at least five of their major suppliers as part of an ongoing advocacy effort.