It’s Nearly Impossible to Shop Ethically

According to a recent story at Racked, shopping ethically isn’t just difficult, it’s damn-near impossible.

Citing a host of factors — ethical, moral, political and more — the story details just how hard it is to be a truly guilt-free clothing consumer in 2017.

Literally every step of the process adds a wrinkle. “Mass subcontracting, which outsources production to other factories, makes it difficult to track how and where our clothing is being made,” the article notes. “Each piece of your clothing, from the zipper on your pants to the buttons on your dress, has a different and complex supply chain.”

And that can make even the most adamant claims of moral and ethical supremacy somewhat suspect. The FDA, for instance, requires a wide range of information to be disseminated with any edible product, but the fashion industry barely has any requisite information, save fabric content and where the majority of the thing was made.

Further adding to the problems facing the would-be ethical consumer is a lack of industry accountability when it comes to outsourcing. While companies have an image to protect, factories have little, if any, incentive to do the same. So even if a brand touts the best practices, there are few guarantees at the factory level “since factories, not companies, receive certifications from third-party auditors that often have incentives to look the other way.”

What’s more, for most shoppers, the clothes they do – or don’t – buy has less to do with where, and by whom, they’re made, and more to do with the brands behind them. “It turns out that while many of us can endure the hypocrisy of mourning factory tragedies while still buying the clothing made in them, a retailer’s politics and brand identity are often where we draw the line.”

All that said, the article does end on a (somewhat) positive note: “online tools [are] slowly making informed shopping easier…So even though ethical shopping can be hard, really hard, there’s hope. We’ve just got to keep reading, keep researching, and keep paying attention.”

You can read more about it at Racked.

[image via]

  • probs

    I genuinely respect that Well Spent has been publishing articles recently that call into question/ point out the difficulty of one of its central ideas, the concept of “responsibly made” goods.

  • What’s more important than shopping is political change. Abusing workers and the environment should not be an option. In the meantime I appreciate blogs like Well Spent.

  • readerman

    I always check Well Spent for content like this – as someone who likes clothes, I find all the discussion of the ethics and symbolism imbued in the clothing really interesting. Would love to know more about the supply chains and business (factory side) that actually creates much of the clothing we wear.