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Shopping ethically doesn’t have to be expensive

World Vision
18 February 2015 by Ruth Dearnley
Shopping ethically doesn’t have to be expensive

Shopping ethically means that people down the supply chain can earn a decent wage - but it doesn't have to break the bank.

More ethical doesn’t mean more expensive. Hardly anyone ever believes me when I say this – but it’s true! And it is critical information to take on board.

I challenged a certain cynical someone (who shall remain nameless!) that this it was a convenient excuse to justify a bargain that we’ve spotted. Over time, they have come around and realised it is possible to be more ethical and still get a bargain!

Whilst it’s encouraging to know that 73 per cent of Australians are willing to pay more for ethically made clothes, in reality, whether it is trousers, teabags or tiaras – we struggle to reconcile being a conscious citizen with being a savvy saver!

I’ve been guilty of this too. But it is possible to read through the marketing spin and actually tell which was the most ethical product!

First of all, you need to consider price as an indicator – but not a guarantee.

At one time, the only ethical alternatives were gourmet goods from specialist retailers and so they often came with a heftier price tag. These items are still available – and I would encourage you to treat yourself this Christmas!

But now ethically sourced goods are widely available – and even Coles and Woolies have some ethically certified products in their home-brand ranges. Now of course there are other ethical issues about buying from big supermarket chains rather than small businesses, but if cost is a real worry then these are great options.

Most of us realise that a t-shirt can’t retail at $5, without someone down the supply chain bearing the brunt of that low cost. But paying more could simply mean higher profits for the retailers – not wages for the workers. If their products aren’t ethically certified, then we need to start asking questions and not just presume its better!

Take a quick look at the brilliant Good On You website. Their ethical detectives have done the hard yards of ranking the clothing companies performance on labour rights, environmental issues and animal rights – and from a quick comparison you’ll see, the price tag doesn’t tell you the whole story!

I want to challenge this thinking. It’s dangerous to presume that paying more will inevitably help others – both for the 168 million child labourers around the world, but also for your wallet. And the more we succumb to that way of thinking – the easier it will be for companies to turn a blind eye to exploitation in their supply chain.

Let’s try and do more to reward the companies who are genuinely doing more to clean up their act, regardless of the price tag. Because it’s the conditions workers are forced to endure, that should be at the heart of our decision.

Ruth Dearnley Ruth Dearnley

Ruth is the former Public Advocacy Manager at World Vision Australia and a passionate advocate for all the little things we can all do to make a more just world.


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