#33 Going Beyond Ethical Consumerism

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler, Evano Community

With the rise of eco-consciousness and the increasing awareness of the frequent infringement of worker rights, especially in developing regions, the political belief of ethical consumerism has become extremely popular amongst consumers. Almost everyone is hyperaware of whether their straws are made of plastic or paper, whether their shoes are made of vegan leather, whether workers are getting paid above minimum wage for their favourite clothing brands and whether the airline company they are flying with offers carbon offsetting programmes.

However, as the belief has become widespread yet change still seems to be pretty much gradual, ethical consumers are now starting to question the validity of the belief system. Buying locally will help a local business and will reduce your carbon footprint, but will it improve the working conditions of garment workers in Bangladesh? Boycotting Amazon will stop your involvement with the company but will it stop the company from overworking its employees or sending more waste to landfills?

These questions highlight the flaws in ethical consumerism, and how unethical and unsustainable practices still occur on a global scale but are now being hidden through practices such as greenwashing and guilt-tripping consumers to believe that they are responsible for unsustainable corporations to be so powerful. Ethical consumerism has become more about blaming consumers than reforming producers, and it’s this concern of consumers that has led to the rise of consumer activism to ensure all focus is on the corporate world to change for the better good, under the pressure of the public. This episode discusses the problems with ethical consumerism and the need to redefine it by putting consumer activism at the heart of the belief system.

Episode Structure:

  • my personal journey with ethical consumerism, driven by eco-anxiety and how I have managed it
  • ethical consumerism history and its popularity as a political belief
  • different types of ethical consumerism (Waheed Hussain) and what I resonate with
  • questioning why we can’t be entirely sustainable and ethical (not including waste that can’t be avoided)
  • 3 major problems with ethical consumerism: akin to voting system, industries failing to be transparent and guilt-tripping consumers to believe they are the cause of unethical companies being powerful on a global scale
  • importance of holding corporations accountable for their negative impacts on society and the environment
  • rise of consumer activism and giving the power back to the public to openly challenge industries to change their production framework
  • examples of successful (and ongoing) consumer activism including boycotting Amazon
  • need to redefine ethical consumerism by putting consumer activism at the core of the belief
  • need to not feel guilty for the actions of bodies of power


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