Over the past several years, consumers have been exhorted to buy local. The reasons behind this may vary – there are incentives to support faltering business or economies in the face of increased globalization, for example. But in order for local purchases to truly provide the stated benefits, heightened consumer awareness is often needed – here’s what you can do to help.
Local quality is better
Buying local can offer improved quality in many ways; you can easily see this in practice. Produce grown by Queensland farmers will reach local markets faster; at this point of sale, it tastes better due to added freshness. The concept extends to services; solicitors in Townsville have increased familiarity with personnel in the courtroom and elsewhere in the system, not to mention skin in the game – their local reputations are at stake, which can greatly improve outcomes.
But the economic principle of comparative advantage can undermine this line of thinking. After all, when you need a pair of trainers, you probably end up buying from a major international retailer like Nike or Adidas instead of a local shoemaker. There are some realms in which global production and distribution does offer better quality. A little research into products, local specialties, and company backgrounds, accompanied by careful judgment will help the discerning consumer support local industries which are playing to the region’s strengths, and thus enjoy better quality from local purchases.
Helping the environment
The shorter distances involved in transporting raw materials and finished products along the supply chain makes it easy to identify that buying local is also an effective strategy for helping to save the environment. After all, global production not only entails vastly longer overland trips, but transport via air or sea as well. Lower emissions are thus an inherent benefit when you buy local.
Yet emissions aren’t the only component of sustainability. Businesses also need to vet their suppliers and source from partners with responsible practices. Inefficient operations can also increase the carbon emissions of a local company; if a local food distributor makes multiple trips to serve various locations, their emissions may not be much lower than those of a national-level distributor making a single trip around Australia. While businesses may be reluctant to disclose all details of their operations, consumer inquiries can help shed additional light on their practices. Using a service such as GoodGuide can help you be better-informed and also drive corporate change.
Boosting local economy
When you buy local – whether that’s in reference to your actual place of residence, or a destination you’re traveling to – the money from your purchase should go to the local economy. It allows businesses to reinvest, which benefits the community by generating jobs and in turn giving individuals more disposable income.
In theory, it’s a positive feedback loop; in practice, many businesses can divert the funds to fuel operations in other locations. If funds are lacking, a small business which decides to expand to another state may draw upon the revenue of its original sites to cover the initial costs, for example. This isn’t a bad practice, but if your main intention behind buying local is to support the region’s economy and its people, then money is better spent on establishments whose operations are confined to that area.
Buying local isn’t just a trend – the past decade has seen it continue to go strong due to the many benefits offered. To ensure that you actually realize those positives with each purchase, stay informed, and make discerning purchases.