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.
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.
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.
- Ethical Shopping Five Ways to Buy Right – Get tips on ethical shopping from an article by the Vancouver Sun.
- Ethical Shopping – The British Council’s website talks about the different ways in which people can shop ethically for food and clothing.
- How to Shop Ethically – Consumers who wish to learn how to shop conscientiously can find advice in the Greener Living section of The Telegraph newspaper website.
- Ethical Fashion: How to Shop With a Clear Conscience – Grazia features an article for consumers who wish to shop ethically for the latest fashions in clothing. It explains the concept of ethical clothing as well as its importance.
- Ethical Guide Shows How to Shop With a Clear Conscience – Ethical shopping involves more than just buying recycled goods. The Independent newspaper talks about and tries to clear some of the confusion surrounding ethical shopping in the 21st century.
- A Beginner’s Guide: Ethical Consumer (PDF) – Ethical Consumer Magazine offers readers a PDF guide that explains how to start shopping ethically from a beginner’s perspective.
- Six Easy Ways to Shop More Ethically – US News & World Report gives advice on how to shop ethically. Some of the ways they discuss include shopping for fair trade goods, boycotting, and buying locally.
- How to Find Ethically Sourced Products You Can Afford – Consumers can shop ethically without breaking the bank. The Christian Science Monitor talks about visiting thrift stores for used goods, buying goods made in the United States, and swapping items with others that are no longer being used.
- Ethical Consumer: Five Ethical Shopping Tips – Click this link to read an article by Ethical Consumer about how to shop ethically.
- Tips for Ethical Consumers – The University of Colorado lists boycotting, alternative gift giving, and buying union-made goods as examples of ethical consumption strategies.
- How to Buy an Ethical Diamond – The University of Buffalo Reporter newspaper talks about how to avoid buying conflict diamonds, or those made under poor labor conditions.
- A Student Orgs Guide to Ethical T-Shirt Purchasing – The University of Iowa features a page that talks about what clothing brands ethical shoppers should avoid, as well as viable alternatives, along with some tips on ethical shopping.
- How to be an Ethical Consumer in Today’s World – Visit the ThoughtCo website for an article in their Social Sciences section about the political, social and economic aspects of ethical consumption. It also talks about how purchasing choices can help low-wage workers and protect the environment.
- Shopping More Ethically (PDF) – This World Vision PDF-based ethical shopping guide is four pages long and discusses how to avoid purchasing goods made by slavery, human trafficking, or child labor.
- Shopping Ethically For Sustainability And The Environment – Choice Magazine talks about investing conscientiously as well as ethical shopping in this Home and Living article.
- What Stops You From Buying Environmental And Ethical Products? – ABC News Australia talks here about the factors that hinder people from shopping ethically even when they want to.
- What Motivates Consumers To Make Ethically Conscious Decisions? – Visit The Guardian for an article about Guardian News & Media readers’ sentiments with regards to ethical purchasing decisions and how this data can help manufacturers and other companies.
- What is Food Ethics: Click this link to the Food Ethics Council to read four examples of ethical decisions that people should make when buying food.
- Ethical Trade and Fairtrade: Consumers can learn the difference between ethical trade and fair trade by clicking this link to the Ethical Trading Initiative.