"Ethical consumerism." "Conscious consuming." "Social Consciousness." These social movements are becoming more and more mainstream as we learn about the broken ecosystem that provides our everyday household products. It's important to be aware that every purchase we make has an impact on the environment and the health and well-being of the people involved in making those products. Unfortunately, the narrative of this movement has armed every marketing team with a new strategy to tout unsubstantiated claims that their products are part of the solution. This makes it very hard to be an ethical consumer when the only information we have about the companies we patronize is from the marketing materials of the companies themselves. So with this in mind we've decided to compile a list of what to look for to make an informed, social responsible, buying decision.
1. Shop Local
Simply by supporting your local economy, you are are sending your dollars back in to the community where you live. In theory, this will lead to a more robust and thriving economy in the neighborhood you reside. When more dollars remain in your community, there are residual effects on your local property values, the quality of your school systems, the tax dollars available for social initiatives, etc. In economic terms, this is called, "Dollar Voting." We use our dollars to vote for the products and services we desire, in the communities we want to see thrive. Taking this a step further, make sure to check the labels and fine print to see where your products are ACTUALLY made. Often, a "local" company will source foreign materials or even import the entire product altogether from a country void of environmental or social regulations.
2. Consume Less, Consume Sustainable
Minimalism is not something you will see companies talk about. Every company must make money to survive. So you will be hard pressed to find a company that endorses minimalism in lieu of consumerism. However, minimalism is unequivocally, the fastest way to living a more socially and environmentally responsible life. Obviously, a minimalist lifestyle isn't for everyone. However, everyone can make a conscious effort to consume more thoughtfully. We are currently participating in an unsustainable model for providing goods to consumers. Outside of minimalism, the only way to slow down our broken social, and environmental economy, is to start supporting sustainable, or more sustainable products. If you have a question about a product you are consuming, simply email or call the company that makes the product, and ask them for information on the sustainability of their product. If they fail to respond, you likely have your answer.
3. Bigger is Usually Worse
If a company is publicly traded it has to answer to a board of directors. Taking this a step further, the board of directors must answer to the share holders. Universally, share holders care about the stock price and their bottom line. If a social or environmental initiative doesn't translate in to an elevated stock price or higher earnings, it will likely not be implemented. Social good programs will only be instituted if the shareholders believe that it will have a positive affect on their bottom line. With the cost of labor in some developing countries being less than $1 per hour, and non-existent environmental regulations, the temptation to choose unethical supply chains are too tempting for many publicly traded companies. A perfect example of this is Patagonia. They are a massive company, yet, they are not publicly traded. They are guided by the vision of a very small group of people, and that vision includes a healthy planet. In fact, the owner of the company started an environmental non-profit that provides and independent audit of it's members and partners to make sure they meet certain baseline criteria in giving back. DeepVibes eagerly joined the "1 Percent for the Planet" movement and we appreciate the path that Patagonia's founders have paved. To read more about "1 Percent for the Planet" click here.
4. Support Companies that Give Back
Nowadays it seems that every company has instituted a give back component. Unfortunately, these give back initiatives are often marketing ploys or publicity stunts to improve reputation. Here are some things to ask when inquiring about a company's give-back program:
- Do you have an annual, independent audit of your donations?
- Do you donate a % of profit, or revenue? This is important because at the end of the year many savvy tax accountants will zero out profits to avoid paying taxes and consequently, avoid donations.
- Is the organization that accepts the company's donations subject to an independent audit?
Then ask yourself this simple question, "Is the company I'm supporting provide transparency with how their revenue is being allocated?"
5. Reference Independent Information
In researching this topic we were able to locate the number one watchdog when it came to policing and documenting the social record of every Fortune 500 company, Knowmore.org. The aim of Knowmore is to "provide an independent, objective source of information" in order to become a "more informed and conscious consumer." Unfortunately, after over a decade of social service, Knowmore.org has been permanently disabled. We would like to bring awareness to their plight. So please watch the following video for more information.
Since Knowmore.org is down we also wanted to provide the following alternative sources for doing your shopper's due diligence.
Simply by reading this information you are already a more socially conscious consumer. Now together, let's bring awareness, and promote ethical consumerism, and elevated vibrations.