2020 taught us that there is not much for which we necessarily have to leave the home. However, the ability to receive products and services remotely is currently still a façade. Even with the Covid-19 public restrictions at their most severe, global supply chains continued to operate (albeit at diminished capacity).
What the pandemic lockdowns did achieve was put in sharper focus the merits of localized sourcing and selling. With less reliance on distant companies, people and countries comes a strengthened sense of unity and independence. We can all do with a healthy dose of that right now.
At its crux, the ability to source and sell locally rather than globally is about reclaiming the power to make decisions. With increased proximity comes increased oversight as well as transparency over our circle of influence. They take three main forms.
For the average consumer, the most common—and perhaps also the most relevant— argument against globalization is the non-ethical treatment of workers. Companies transfer their operations from developed countries to underdeveloped and developing ones for financial reasons. But, along with the lower cost of manufacturing and employment comes the specter of poor working conditions and worker benefits.
Now, the decision reverts back to the consumer. Do you love your Nike sneakers enough to ignore where and how they are manufactured? With a young population more committed to fairness and egalitarianism today, mega corporations may realize that local manufacturing is the way forward.
Isn’t it amazing that it is actually cheaper to manufacture and ship a product from halfway around the world than to make it locally? However, that is only true if you gloss over the environmental impact of transporting vast volumes of cargo.
In reality, global supply chains contribute far more to greenhouse gas emissions than the average American driving their SUV. That applies as much to vegetables and fruit as it does to vehicles and flat screens. Consumers know that locally-produced food not only requires less non-renewable energy to create but is also less likely to be packed with preservatives and artificial enhancers.
Ultimately, the single factor of greatest consequence in the supply and demand chain is money. Economic considerations will decide whether the recent trend away from globalization is tenable. In that respect, the Global versus Local battle hinges on balancing quality with price.
The Made in U.S.A. tag has far more potency both in America and around the world than many of us realize. It is a symbol of high standards both in terms of the product as well as the quality of life of the worker creating it. The same applies to services. While remote work may seem like a viable option to reduce costs, too many companies have discovered the hard way that the compromise on quality eventually costs them more.
Until 2019, a scenario like 2020 was widely considered firmly in the realm of “possible but most unlikely.” Now, we know that it can happen but also that we can survive, provided our circle of demand is concentrated around us and not diluted by distance.