I was answering some interview questions recently for Hayley of the How to Be Blog and she posed a question that got me thinking.
We are experiencing significant growth in the number of ethical, sustainable & fair trades brands. Beyond the obvious benefits to the producer of these items, what do you feel as the benefits to the consumer?
It was interesting for me to take time to consider this aspect of ethical fashion. A lot of our focus on the “ethical” part of our business is that we are dealing fairly with the producers, which of course offers our artisan partners a chance to support their families and strengthen their communities.
However, beyond this obvious benefit to the producer, what is the consumer gaining when they make conscious choices around what kind of company they are supporting with their dollar? The modern-day philosopher Alain de Botton says:
“What does meaning come from? It comes from when you feel that you’re somehow improving the lives of others through your actions, either by reducing suffering or increasing pleasure.”
I think there is an ever-growing consumer base that cares about where their products came from, and are aware of the immense power they have with through their purchases. Globalization has changed the way we are able to consume products and participate in the global economy and the more we demand for transparency in the supply chain means people can make an educated choice in who they are supporting.
A multi-national corporation that produces clothes in a sweatshop that wreaks havoc on the environment? Or a group of women who make their traditional artisanal products by hand?
Beyond the fact that handmade items are made with attention to detail and are often higher in quality, the knowledge that purchasing that item actually improves the quality of life for someone else is extremely impactful on the buyer as well. Making seemingly small choices about who you are supporting when you shop can have the amplified effect of adding meaning and purpose to a simple purchase.
Perhaps there is no such thing as an altruistic action. But if the actions that make us feel better about ourselves are also helping others, it’s a win/win. So next time you need a little boost in morale, consider who you support through your purchases, and take a moment to enjoy the power you have to do good through being a conscious consumer.