Today, when corporations can be more influential than entire countries, where we put our pounds is where the power lies. In some ways every time we spend our cash we are making an active choice about the world we want to live in.
The problem is global supply chains are increasingly complex with many countries and companies being involved in the production of one product, so it is difficult to confidently make an informed choice.
Retail manufacturing industry is second only to oil in how much it pollutes. According to Annie Leonard, an expert in overconsumption, only 1% of the materials used to produce our consumer goods are still in use six months after sale. Whilst globalisation has increased affordability of consumer goods it has made consumption unsustainable and plagued with ethical dilemmas. Moreover consumption does not actually seem to make us happy anyway. Consumerist society is based on the exploitation of people in poor countries making goods that bring next to no utility for people in rich countries whilst making them sad and destroying the planet in the process. When you say it out loud it sounds insane!
However, times are changing. Increasing awareness around these issues has led to a rise in what is known as conscious consumption, a movement of people questioning the role that consumerism has played in their lives, the lives of others and the planet we live on.
A third of UK consumers claim to be very concerned about issues regarding the origin of products. A study from YouGov and the Global Poverty Project revealed that 74% of respondents would pay an extra 5% for their clothes if there was a guarantee workers were being fairly paid in safe conditions. That 5% doesn’t sound like a lot, but consider the fact that the fashion industry lifts a staggering 125 million people out of poverty by adding 1% of its profits to workers’ wages.
“Greenwashing” and corporate social responsibility marketing campaigns are no longer enough. In an increasingly transparent world, businesses must keep up with growing demands for ethical business practices and sustainable supply chain management. In the age of the consumer, it’s ethical consumption that will change our world.
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