In our times, public awareness about responsible consumption is fortunately increasing. And whether one is looking at the travel – (that I write a lot about), textile -, or food industry, similar points become clear:
In order to combat unethical production practices, it is essential that consumers get aware of the issues and understand their potential to change things for the better by using their purchase power. In this lays the notion that it is essential that consumers don’t expect that private sectors (corporations) and governments alone to take responsibility. The latter factor relates to a common reason for why irresponsible practices continue to thrive: the lack of an all-industry-stakeholders responsible approach.
Thus if consumers understood themselves as a crucially important stakeholder group, perhaps they’d be less passive and more aware of their power to positively impact on the production circle by taking a few aware actions.
Here are 10 good advices for responsible consumption:
1. Like I wrote about in the previous post, the first action is simply gaining awareness. Get to know a little more about why the system we live in today is like it is. If you really care and wish it would be fairer for all of us, decide to engage somehow. Don’t avoid engaging due to a belief that your small actions won’t count. This is a common misconception that too many of us have, that ironically only benefits the system to continue being unfair.The more awareness you gain, the more you engage one way or another and the more others do too. It’s a lovely good circle to discover.
2. When you start engaging, let the world know it. Social media platforms are wonderful channels for this purpose.
3. Strongly linked to the above: Discuss and debate the purpose of your engagement. Of course you can be a total fashion slave AND engaged in how the textile producers’ worker conditions. In fact it makes more sense to show that you care about ethical production the more interested you are in a product. This way you show the world that you reflect and understand how things are interrelated.
4. Find out what further engagement you can afford to take. For instance, if you have some favorite designers or tour operators you purchase from, or food chains you love, check out their CSR schemes, and google their names + topics like location of fabrics, production place, social responsibility, transparency etc. If you cant find enough information, email them about your concerns. Trust that your voice has a real impact!
5. Yes, I know. It may be both time-consuming and overwhelming to search for ethical and responsible companies. Therefore the good news are that many organisations and individuals have done a big part of the work for you already. Find out more about civil society organisations and initiatives within the sector you are interested in approaching more responsibly. Despite of being critised as slactivism in the media, believe me on this: It is better to sign online petitions than doing nothing. There are several proofs this has increased improved corporate & government action.
6. Buy ethical. Many (e.g. travel, clothing, food and technology) companies now a days have a well designed CSR scheme or show ethical credentials regarding the environment and local communities they affect. However, when you are now entering the ‘awareness world’ don’t believe everything you read at first glance. Take some time to browse various sources; jointly look at websites, NGO sites and media articles (or blogs) about products/ companies you’re interested in in order to avoid trusting the many wolves in sheep’s clothing out there.
7. Support companies that are ‘ethical’ based on more than a few environmental credentials. Whatever industry you are purchasing products from, they are produced by human beings, and the sad truth is that most of these workers have few or none worker rights compared to our own. So, think about the environment yes, but look for companies that support workers rights and actively tell you what they assure of goods for their most vulnerable workers.
8. Whenever tragedies like the recent one in Bangladesh happens, get informed by, engage with and support organisations that work hard to teach us about this. Due to some of them and a long time pressure from the media and consumers, H&M, Tesco, Helly Hansen +++ actually just signed new agreements to OPENLY tell where all their production takes place. This means a tremendously lot for many poor workers in the ‘Global South’ and wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for social media and consumers’ engagement on top of civil society’s work. You can learn more about a very active and good organisation called Clean Clothes here
9. Get familiar with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and opinions about fair labour standards, which is the very core of the question of this blog post: Why become a responsible consumer? You can read about ILO here.
10. Lastly. Beware of the manipulative consumption industry and try to purchase less crap in general! 🙂