Transparency is a noble pursuit in this age of business2.0, and we’ve seen companies like Chumby and TCHO benefit from free press and a boosted brand identity in exchange for posting their entire process on-line for all to see. So what happens when a company that makes bad products still practices transparently? Flickr introduced me to Yesmoke, an Italian cigarette company with a rebellious spirit that was founded out of a desire to create a different kind of tobacco business. Born from of an on-line cigarette store that was ultimately sued by Philip Morris for selling to Americans tax-free (in Yesmoke’s words “This factory has been built thanks to the “unauthorized” sale of 300 million packs of Marlboros to U.S. smokers, via the Internet“) Yesmoke expresses outrage over the practices of American tobacco companies in Europe, where they owe billions of euros (!) in taxes and represent a drain on local economies. They identify their company in direct opposition to the criminally dishonest practices of these “7 bastards,” largely by documenting their practices and refusing to add synthetic chemicals to tobacco or market to youth. You can visit their plantation in Malawi, where they are experimenting on how to replace methyl bromide, a widely used soil sterilant that is harmful to the ozone layer. They have documentation of their immaculate factory which is plastered in anti-big tobacco and pro-European slogans – probably more so for the cameras than for the apparently invisible workers. And once you’ve ogled their spotless machines, you can also see equally engrossing – but far more gross – graphic images of the effects of tobacco on the body (not for the faint of heart). I guess if anyone has to sell tobacco, then it better be local producers practicing honestly and transparently. Because if you disagree, you can let them know, which is far better than the alternative.
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