There are companies around the world that engage in practices that are widely considered unethical. This may include unsafe working conditions, the use of child labor, or low pay for employees. Others may produce inferior quality goods or they may fail to follow environmentally friendly or humane practices. When a person buys the goods sold by these companies, they are supporting and indirectly condoning its actions and culture, providing them with a financial reward to continue with business as usual. Fortunately, people have a choice when it comes to what they buy, and what they choose matters. Ethical shopping means rejecting and refusing to patronize these companies. People who practice ethical shopping only buy from companies that follow ethical practices that do not harm people or the environment, nor exploit workers or children.

Different Ways to Shop Ethically

There are a number of ways that people can shop ethically, all of which involve making the right decision on where, what, and how they buy the goods that they need. Researching retailers and manufacturers is a starting point. Additionally, consumers should completely avoid patronizing companies that do not have ethical practices, regardless of low prices or other incentives, such as coupons.  They should research, locate, and purchase products from companies that do have ethical practices.

Shop Fair Trade

Consumers can easily find fair trade goods online and in brick and mortar stores. Fair trade ensures that people who work in under-developed countries receive appropriate and livable pay for their labors. It also ensures that there are no human rights abuses involved in the production of goods. When buying these items, people should check for Fairtrade labeling or certification of authenticity.

Buy local

Large corporations and big-box retailers will typically offer consumers lower prices and a huge inventory that can shut down smaller businesses. The products offered by these corporations, however, are often made using cheap labor and/or they outsource their labor to other countries. These businesses may also lobby against, or strive to avoid complying with, environmental restrictions and labor laws in their efforts to save money. As a result, this increases the divide between individuals who are wealthy and those who are middle class or poor. A part of ethical shopping involves putting money back into the pockets of small business owners, helping them to continue conducting business within the community. Buying local can also mean buying items that are not only made locally but from manufacturers who operate and make goods in the United States in general. Due to current labor laws within the U.S., this drastically reduces the risk of purchasing clothes or other goods made in dangerous facilities that use child or slave labor. Although local goods may be slightly more expensive, businesses may offer coupons or discount promo codes to entice consumers to buy from them.

Buy used

Items that people buy second-hand include clothing, vehicles, and furniture. Some companies or independent sellers also offer upcycled goods, which are used or even damaged goods that are decorated and put to use in new ways. Buying used items does not mean that the manufacturer used ethical practices in its production. It can be considered an economical or environmentally-conscious purchase as it does not end up in landfills, money does not go back to the original manufacturer, and no new item is produced to directly replace it. While this is a good thing, it may still be an item that was made using unethical practices. People who want to ensure that the purchase is a completely ethical one should check the label for the brand and manufacturing location.

Benefits of Ethical Shopping

When enough people choose to make ethical choices about what they do and do not purchase, the benefits can be tremendous. Not only can it benefit one’s local community and help protect human rights, it can also prove extremely beneficial in terms of the environment and human health. By shopping ethically and withholding their money from companies that endanger their workers or use illegal and exploitative practices, consumers morally boycott a company which can potentially lead to change.


When shopping ethically, it’s natural for people to choose their products with sustainability in mind. Sustainable goods have less of an impact on the environment. They are typically made in a way that minimally adds to the pollution of the environment. Additionally, they often also use materials that are from renewable sources.