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With millions of choices and billions in revenue at stake, how can we be conscious consumers?

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn:

Online commerce has generated phenomenal amounts of revenue and wealth over the last two decades. There is hardly a person in the connected world who does not research or buy products online. It has never been easier or more convenient to spend your money. The ease of access has undoubtedly led to higher demand for consumer goods.

As globalisation shifted manufacturing to lower income countries, these nations realised the potential that cheap production has for their economies. In search of economic growth they went, each with the competitive mindset that has branded global trade and started vying to be the recipients of vast sums of money, looking for a place to be maximise returns. Competitive advantage in manufacturing consumer goods now comes down to how lax social and environmental regulations are.

The truly ugly side of globalisation is the one we don't feel comfortable talking about. The nasty consequences of producing something with cheaply acquired raw materials, made by underpaid people in appalling conditions, shipped half way around the world to arrive at your doorstep in layers and layers of packaging, just so you can decide you don't really like the colour. Every time we do this, we reinforce the cycle and contribute to an unsustainable economic system based on exploitation and obscurity.

If we knew the direct negative consequences our consumption has, we would have to be pretty heartless not to reduce our contribution to global environmental and social issues. Fair trade works, there is no question about it. If you knew that the shirt you are about to buy was made by a child who will have problems with her eyes due to bad visibility in the factory where she is forced to work twelve hours a day, you would seriously reconsider your choice. If you knew the palm oil in your favourite biscuit has led to the habitats of endangered species being destroyed and people being driven from their ancestral land, you wouldn't buy it anymore, because you would feel guilty. You would feel guilt because something which brings you joy simultaneously brings someone else grief. And grief is not just bad for sales, it's bad for pretty much everything else too.

How can we help?

The information we need is out there. It exists, floating about in the ether of reporting standards, compliance frameworks and sourcing policies of the big, globalised world. Does everybody have the time to read the sustainability policy or calculate the relative carbon emissions of a company whose products you want to buy over your lunch-break? Of course not. But we need to realise that being conscious of our consumption is no longer just for hippies and environmentalists, it's just as much a part of our lives as shopping online.

Bringing transparency into the consumer market in order to generate radically inclusive economic upliftment with minimal environmental impact is our mission. Imagine your consumer choices can radically improve someone's life, while you're having a little bit of fun doing it? Yes please. We have the power to make the world a little bit better every time we spend money, we just need to know how.

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