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What is ethical spending?

Ethical spending is a form of consumer activism, where consumers favor ethical products and companies, and stop negative spending, or putting their money towards unethical businesses.  You can find several websites that list companies based on carbon footprint, employee treatment, animal treatment, etc., that take the guess work out of which companies to buy from, and which ones to avoid.  In a world of convenience, you can also find a variety of apps that list by category which companies have the highest rating. All the tools are there, but does this make it accessible to the masses?

Just another trend?

I have been diving into the trendy world of ethical spending the past few days. Where we spend our money is important, we want to invest in companies we believe in and support. I myself have shunned Starbucks for many reasons, from big business running out the local coffee shops, to overpriced unhealthy drinks, and poor employee treatment.  There are companies out there that I simply do not want to give my money to.  Look up why to buy ethically, and you are inundated with buzz wordy quotes, pictures of sweat shops and green leaves.  When I see this, it screams trend. There is still value to be considered here, we all want to support ethical companies, that treat our world and the people in it well.  While there are endless quotes out there, and stories of good and bad companies that pull at our heart strings and make us want to do better for our world, there is also a glaring problem with buying ethically.

Buying ethically is expensive. It is easy to say that shopping for the least expensive item is not the best way to shop; you have to consider the conditions that allowed the meat you are buying to be so cheap, or the shirt you are wearing to cost almost nothing. With the idea that if we, as a human race come together and stop putting our money towards these business, they will slowly become a thing of the past. The problem with this concept is that while this works for the middle class and above, maybe even lower-middle class, this is unattainable for the lower class. So I have to ask myself, is this just another trend for the elite, those who have options in how they spend their money?  Just another way for companies to monopolize on the good will nature of humans?

The end goal is to have a world with companies that are socially responsible, are good to the enviroment, and treat their employees well and pay a livable wage.  Where ethical and affordable are matched. A goal that all of us, rich and poor alike can agree on.  Afterall, we want a world for our future generations that is better than ours, right?  The position that so many of us find ourselves in, is that we can’t afford to buy ethically, and so we go for the less expensive option.  For the family that works several jobs to clothe their children and put food on the table, shopping at a major discount stores may be the only option. To really achieve the goal, the concept of ethical spending has to be attainable for the masses, not just a particualr class.  As a woman, who has been a single mother barely scraping by, reading an article on why we should spend ethically, making you feel guilty about that $10 shirt you bought at your local discount store, it is disheartening to find the list of affordable retailers selling summer dresses for $148. Only to those not on a budget would define this as affordable.

People buy cheap, because cheap is what they can afford.  Change doesn’t happen when there are limitations to who can be part of the change.  Change happens when we can all work together in cooperation towards a better world.  There is no singular definition for “affordable” it is subjective to the person, and what their living circumstances are. Ethical spending has to become more attainable for the all.

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