By Daniel Cardozo
I can find no better word to describe what it's like to be a socially-conscious consumer. It's a word, and a feeling, I've become very familiar with over the years, every time I reach into my wallet to pay for the goods -- like apparel and electronics -- that are so ubiquitous in the modern world.
I do not mean to disparage stuff. As a distributor of promotional products (also known as swag or logo gear), I make my living from selling stuff. I personally have a lot of stuff. The widgets that workers produce in factories can keep us clothed, informed, comfortable and entertained. And in a very real sense, stuff makes the world go round, providing the jobs that fuel the entire global economy.
But this system, with so much potential to generate prosperity, is unfortunately rife with mischief: ludicrous inequality of wealth, systemic abuse of workers, and irreversible devastation to the natural environment.
Socially-conscious consumers choose not to look away from the horrors that come along with the production, sale and consumption of stuff. But for those who do take a stand, it's almost impossible not to lose one's bearings. The decision to spend money only through channels that protect people and the planet is incredibly noble but also inherently fraught.
Take apparel, for example.
When shopping in a clothing store, where do you begin, if your goal is to walk out with a new t-shirt and know that your purchase has contributed to the health and well-being of the garment workers who sewed the sleeves to the body, picked off the loose threads, and attached the tag to the neck?
You will quickly find that every conceivable path to the knowledge you seek has been blocked off. Between you the buyer, and the nameless human being who turned that bit of fabric into a garment, is an impenetrable maze of brokers, contractors, subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors. The system is purposely rigged so that no one bears ultimate responsibility for factory conditions, there is always someone else to blame, and the chain of profit and exploitation never ends.
I hope to use this blog series to reduce some of the helplessness associated with ethical consumption. There are best practices, shortcuts, and educated leaps of faith that savvy consumers can make to bring supply chain malfeasance into the disinfecting light of day and reclaim the right to spend money without sacrificing one's morals and integrity.
Daniel Cardozo is the CEO of Ethix Merch