Go on social media any given day, and you’ll find no shortage of posts reminding you there are certain businesses you shouldn’t give your money or support to, either because of their problematic labor practices or financial ties, both of which often have deep-seated issues of oppression and bigotry.
It’s banal to point out there’s no such thing as being an entirely ethical consumer in a capitalist society – buying anything mass-produced and marketed most assuredly means you’re contributing to someone’s harm somewhere in the world – but it is worth it to try as best you can. It’s important to call out businesses that are especially harmful and abusive, but at the same time, allowing yourself to constantly get upset over where others spend their time and money is a set up for misery. It’s a reactive, unpowerful response.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to be more proactive in trying to be an ethical consumer. By that I mean, thinking more about where I want to spend to money, not just where I shouldn’t spend my money. What does that look like?
It may look something like this:
- Seeking out small and local businesses that support their surrounding community; businesses that provide good services at a reasonable price, and are also welcoming and inclusive of everyone.
- Being mindful that no matter how great a small business is, it often doesn’t have the bandwidth to provide some services as cheap or as quickly as big corporations, but still making an effort to give them my business anyway, and being patient when things don’t go as smoothly as it might with a company that has, say, a slick website with a one-click buying option and same-day delivery.
- Being respectful of the fact that more and more services are being driven to the gig economy, which inevitably means there’s always someone willing to work for less. Being an ethical consumer means not taking advantage of that and trying to get as much as I can out of a freelancer for as little as possible, because I know I can.
Much of this is easier in theory than in practice. The world is going a 1000 miles per hour, and so much is expected of us every single day. We not only want, but often need, our purchase options to be quick and seamless as possible.
But again, I think it’s worth trying. And I’d rather give more thought about where I want to spend my money than allowing myself to get upset over where other spend theirs.