What is Ethical Consumerism? Why do I avoid Amazon? Do companies really still use child labour? Can changing your mp3 download site or supermarket really make a difference?
In this third and final installment of my introductory Why? series I look at the final element of my Practically Ethics blog; Why Buy Ethically?
What is Ethical Consumerism?
Ethical Consumerism, Ethical Buying and Ethical Shopping are where the products you spend your money on are influenced by the ethics of either the product itself or the company that produced it, not just on the quality, utility or price.
This might mean choosing to avoid cosmetics that are tested on animals (one area where this crosses over with my veganism), avoiding clothing where companies have been found to be using child labour or avoiding a manufacturer that has been found to not pay a living wage.
The beauty of Ethical Consumerism is that you can simply use your everyday spending habits to influence change.
Why Ethical Consumerism?
If you knew one chocolate bar of two on the shelf was made from cocoa picked by young children in dangerous conditions and the other wasn’t which would you choose?
There are many horrors behind the closed doors of the consumer world; deforestation, toxic waste, slave labour, bribery, insider trading and forcing people from their homes to make way for development.
There’s also a lot of hope too. Gas suppliers that only use renewable energy, cosmetic companies that do not test on animals, companies signing up to a living wage for their employees and crack downs on child labour.
We can influence the kinds of ethics we want in today’s world.
Your Money, Your Vote
You hold a position of power in the market place. Your capital is what keeps companies going. Withdraw that money, that support, on mass and a company either changes to meet your needs or goes under.
It isn’t just general elections and the X-Factor where we get to vote. You do this all the time when you choose one product over another.
How does it work?
Okay, no one wants to support child labour or suffering but it’s not exactly written on the packet “this chocolate contains the blood, sweat and tears of small children” so how on earth do you know? How do you make the right choice?
This is where sites like the Ethical Consumer come in.
They rate thousands of companies and products and put them into comparison charts. They even have options relating to different kinds of ethics. So if you are particularly interested in the animal welfare but happy with genetic engineering you can alter their influence on the rankings.
Take clothing for example. Have a look at the Ethical Consumer ratings on clothing. Now you can see that if you want to be more ethical on the high street you’re going to want to spend more time in Zara and H&M than you are in Bonmarche, Primark or any of the major supermarkets.
If you want to make even more difference you could actively seek out an alternative clothing company with much higher ratings.
The Ethical Consumer has a range of product guides for everything from your energy company to your chosen alcohol, where you download mp3s to where you buy your laptop. Even choosing a company and product just slightly higher up the ratings is a step in the right direction.
My attempt at Ethical Consumerism
If you’ve read a few of my posts you may not be surprised to hear that this was another of my Day Zero Project tasks, to make five ethical swaps. So I’ve bought CDs using Musicstack (Ethical consumer rating 13) instead of Amazon (Ethical Consumer rating 2). Downloaded albums 7Digital (Ethical Consumer rating 12) instead of iPlayer (Ethical Consumer rating 6). I try and buy all my books either paperbacks through Better World Books (14) instead of Amazon (2) or ebooks on the Nook (9.5) app rather than the Kindle (2.5) app.
We’ve even switched our energy supplier away from EDF to Good Energy, who use only renewable energy sources, instead.
I’ve still got a long way to go on this one. I still plan to try and swap current and savings accounts and also need to learn a lot more about veganism beyond just food.
What can you do?
Why don’t you join me and try and make five ethical swaps? Could you change your supermarket? Maybe next time you need a new toaster or microwave have a look at the appliances guide first? Could you download all your music through 7digital instead of Amazon? Or perhaps visit my favourite clothing stores; charity shops.
I’ll keep you posted on my ethical banking and vegan cosmetics as I continue my blog.
Let me know what ethical swaps you’ve tried just by commenting here.
All images from Pixabay, licence free.