Social responsibilityMany of us want to save the world in some way. That’s why we volunteer, support causes, donate to charity, fundraise, etc. We make our strongest efforts for the issues that matter most to us.

Social responsibility calls for decisions that benefit society at large, sometimes at the expense of our own best interests. Given the option, we’d prefer to save money on food, clothes, transportation, services, etc. We treat our finances in much the same way a company attempts to satisfy investors: keep costs lows, earnings up, and don’t go belly up.

The cheapest option is often the only choice for many consumers to manage survival in a paycheck-to-paycheck world. It’s unfortunate that most affordable options are often harmful to the environment, workers and even politics.

Take McDonald’s for example. Sales for the chain continue to rise in the U.S. despite recession worries. Now consider food writer Mark Bittman’s attack in the New York Times on the booming growth of meat consumption, highlighting that:

– Livestock production generates more greenhouse gases than transportation.

– The majority of corn and soy grown is used to feed cattle, pigs and chicken, though 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger or malnutrition.

– 30% of earth’s ice-free land is connected to livestock production.

– Livestock waste degrades surrounding water and air quality.

Joe Schmoe with a household median income of $48,451 buys his family a few value meals this week because it’s all that he can afford this month. His purchases help McDonald’s keep another low-wage earner behind the counter employed; another farm has more meat to sell to McDonald’s; and the federal government subsidizes the meat farm to keep producing cost-effective meat. In between all of this, the environment suffers because Joe Schmoe and families like his need a cheap way to eat.

Mr. Schmoe has socially responsible options, but he can’t choose them when demand and prices rise for organic foods, as recent news reports. Short supply is partly at fault, but what about businesses that admit to doubling the price on natural and organic products because they can. Price markups don’t always go to providing better wages to workers. So what’s holding back companies from making social responsibility more affordable to consumers?

I’m asking you dear readers, to educate me and others with limited means. How can social responsibility be made affordable for everyone? Please feel free to share your ideas and solutions.