Living in a capitalist society means being perpetually surrounded by advertisements that wish to lure shoppers in with sales, deals, discounts and, most harmfully, false claims of morality. Misleading advertising and insufficient research can lead consumers happily wishing to “make a difference” into a pit of exactly the opposite.
Unfortunately, it can seem nearly impossible to detect which companies allow shoppers to actually put their money where their morals are. In the capitalist society we live in, we get to talk with our pocketbooks by supporting businesses that are doing good in the world and avoiding those who are not. This article serves as a guide to which businesses to avoid and which to enjoy. Happy shopping!
Let’s get the bad out of the way first – here are some big-name companies you want to avoid!
Despite Nike’s recent and controversial release of an advertisement featuring former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, the company is failing to practice what it’s preaching when it comes to activism. This is a company to avoid. Nike is using activism to turn a profit. In the meantime, though they have a net worth of $30 billion, they still practice the use of nonunion labor through sweatshops.
2. Victoria’s Secret
Regardless of their branding personas, Victoria’s Secret is far from being considered an “Angel.” In a Bloomberg investigation, it was found that children were working in slave-like conditions to produce cotton used for Victoria’s Secret products. While they may advertise a “perfect fit,” this company is certainly not a perfect fit for anyone looking to be an ethical spender.
Shocker, I know – TOMS may seem like it is the quintessential ethical company. Sadly, it’s not. YouTuber Adam Conover exploits the harm TOMS creates on economic development in certain impoverished areas of Africa. What’s more, classic TOMS cost only $4 to make, yet they are sold for $49.95. TOMS, therefore, holds the rest for-profit and has turned itself into a company worth over $300 million.
4. Old Navy
Unfortunately, Old Navy does not stand alone in its faults here. The company is interlaced with others like The Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta. These businesses have been called out as routinely using sweatshop labor with conditions bad enough to be labeled as “a living hell.”
Oh, Amazon. I get it. As a college student who is basically always broke and scrounging for money, it is really hard not to check out Amazon for things like textbooks, book rentals or even by using Amazon Kindle. Amazon is easy and it’s affordable. What Amazon is not, however, is ethical. Although this company hit a $1 trillion value, its workers say the company is “treating human beings as robots.” Though the company is rolling in money, their workers remain underpaid and severely overworked.
6. Benefit Cosmetics, Maybelline, Clinique, & OPI Products
Plain and simple, if you love animals then you should not be buying these brands. As of 2017, they were all still recorded to be using animal-testing.
7. Forever 21 & H&M
This one is a major disappointment to my high school freshman self. Cheap apparel clearly comes at a high price. These companies, like others listed above, are also guilty of using sweatshop labor.
This list of businesses to avoid may seem surprising and even disappointing. No worries! There are plenty of ethical businesses that you shop at guilt-free!
If you’re looking for a cute new gym shoe that you can feel good about wearing in more ways than one, go French with the footwear. Veja is not only an ethical company through the forms of labor it uses, but is also a sustainable company with vegan-friendly footwear options. Besides, if anyone knows fashion, it’s the French!
2. The Package Free Shop
If you just love online shopping but feel guilty about how much waste it amasses, then you need to check out the Package Free Shop! Not only are their items adorable, but they are all environmentally-friendly and support sustainable lifestyle choices.
This popular shoe brand is doing more than creating trendy hiking boots. Timberland has been working towards becoming a more sustainable brand by using recycled products in their shoes. For instance, 310 million water bottles have found a “new life” in Timberland shoes. The company has also planted over 9.6 million trees, is working towards 100% renewable energy manufacturing, and 80% of their employees participate in community service through projects arranged by Timberland on an annual basis. Not too shabby!
4. Love Your Melon
TOMS might have been totally misleading, but thankfully we can love Love Your Melon. This company genuinely donates 50% of its profits to benefit childhood cancer research in the U.S. As of 2016, the company had donated almost $2.5 million to this cause.
5. Lush, Burt’s Bees, & The Body Shop
While some beauty brands are clearly cold-hearted enough to test on animals, these companies love our furry friends as much as you do. Lush goes so far as to specifically promote a sustainable and waste-free lifestyle.
6. Alex & Ani
As someone who believes in the sentiment that “empowered women empower women,” Alex & Ani is a personal favorite. This company is run by women, uses American craftsmanship, and works to create local jobs. Not only this, but Alex and Ani has a “Charity By Design” collection featuring nearly 80 different pieces, each supporting a different charity. 20% of the purchase price is donated to the charity. If the goal donation amount is not made through purchase, Alex and Ani donates the remaining amount from its profits.
7. Shop Small
One of the best ways to put your money where your morals are is by shopping locally! By supporting small businesses, the old phrase that you are “putting food on the dinner table” comes to mind. What’s great about shopping small is that, often, that is really the case. Shopping at local thrift stores is also a great way to practice sustainable living.
While these are just a few insights on how to be a more ethical shopper, the best way to ensure you are putting your money where your morals are is by doing your own research and putting aside what’s trendy for the sake of what’s right. Besides, you know you’ll look super cute in a pair of Timberlands with a Love Your Melon hat to match.