What do cupcakes, toilet paper and an attempted carjacking have to do with one another? Glad you asked! As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to become an entrepreneur. My first “business” was in boarding school where I saw a need for toilet paper and cupcakes, so I started selling them to my classmates to make a bit of extra money. Then, fast forward to 2017 when I was carjacked by armed men, which opened my eyes to modern day slavery and human trafficking. That event sparked a passion in me to join the fight to end human trafficking, which includes labor trafficking and the fair treatment of employees. So, naturally, I became passionate about combining those two things: ethical business practices or businesses that ethically source and ethically manufacture while also providing great products or services. As you probably know, I love fashion, decorating, and shopping! But now that I’ve learned so much about slave labor, I’ve decided one way I can make a positive impact in the world is by choosing to shop more consciously, asking the right questions, doing the right research. Can you imagine the impact we could make if we all did this?
Identifying as an “ethical” brand has become pretty on-trend these days, and it’s great that other people are starting to shop more consciously too! But, how can you tell if a company truly sources and manufactures ethically?
I think it starts with EDUCATION. As you may have heard me say before, I believe education creates empathy, urgency and then ultimately education creates change. If you want to make a positive impact in this world by choosing to shop more consciously, I believe it starts with educating yourself on the issues and understanding why it matters. Knowledge is power and it fuels your efforts to make a change!
So why is shopping ethically so important? Well, today more consumers are shopping fast fashion and homeware than ever before to keep up with rapidly changing “trends.” The cheap prices and overconsumption come at a high cost to others and create a negative impact on the environment, the supply chain, and the employees behind the products. The suppliers are operating beyond their capacity and as a result, employees face unfair wages and abusive labor practices. Taking it a step further, overconsumption perpetuates modern-day slavery and human trafficking as manufacturers and suppliers try to keep up with the consumer demand. Consumers are responsible for these side effects by partaking in the trends, but consumers also have the power to make a difference by changing their shopping habits. YOU have the power to make an impact.
This quote from The TFC Sustainable Fashion Resource Library sums it up best:
“One of the most impactful ways normal, everyday people can get involved in the fight against modern-day slavery and human trafficking is to begin purchasing slavery-free goods. When scaled, these purchases create demand for goods produced with audited, slavery-free labor; simultaneously, this shift also shrinks the market for goods produced with forced or slave labor and/or by trafficked humans.”
If consumers understand how these unethical companies are operating the ripple effect could be huge. You can choose to stop shopping these brands, allowing other great brands that are implementing ethical practices to have a chance to grow and succeed, impacting many people along the way.
So now that you have a little background on why shopping ethically is so important, here are a few ways to identify an ethical brand:
- Third Party Certifications – Look for fair trade certifications. These indicate that the producers are paid a fair price for their goods, workers receive fair wages and work in good conditions, and there are no instances of forced, bonded or child labor throughout their supply chains. There are several organizations that certify products, farms, and brands, including Fairtrade International, Fair Trade USA, Fair Trade Federation, International Labor Organization, and World Fair Trade Organization. These certifications can be expensive though, so some smaller companies who truly do adhere to ethical practices may not have them so you may have to look for other indicators.
- Company Policies – When a company integrates policies against modern-day slavery into their Code of Conduct, it signifies their commitment to fight human trafficking and promotes ethical business practices. These policies serve to recognize the severity of human trafficking in the labor force, prohibit any behaviors that perpetuate such labor, and reinforces their stance on the issue.
- Transparency – Transparency promotes accountability. It allows consumers, employees, and other stakeholders to hold companies accountable for their business practices. This can look different for different industries – for example, beauty companies might provide a list of ingredients used in production, while fashion companies might list their suppliers and factories for the public to observe. One way to see if a business is committed to being transparent to their consumers is becoming a certified B Corporation through B Lab, a non-profit organization that is committed to the idea of using business for good. B Corps are held to the highest performance standards and in turn, maintain transparency and accountability.
- Community Investment – Being an ethical brand is one thing, but how are they going beyond the internal practices and positively impacting others? One of the most important things a company can do to create impact is reinvesting in the community. Whether companies are funding training programs, education, and healthcare or donating proceeds through some sort of give back initiative, these actions improve the living and working conditions of employees. Promoting a positive work and home environment improves local economies, increases productivity, and helps businesses succeed!
Congratulations, friend! Just by reading through these, you’ve started educating yourself on how to shop more consciously! Don’t you feel accomplished? I hope this is just the first step in all of us coming together to make a difference. Spread the word that we’re no longer condoning these unethical practices or the companies that do it. We’re going to decide to support the MANY incredible companies and brands that are choosing to source and manufacture ethically (while also having really amazing products too!). By doing this, we’re playing a small role in helping set people free all over the world. How awesome is that?! Make sure to follow along with me on social because I’ll be sharing a lot more about brands that are choosing to make a positive impact in the world so you can too!
Sources: TFC Sustainable Fashion Resource Library
End Slavery Now Slave Free Buying Guide