Buying the things we need and want is a normal part of life, but we can make a positive impact by making mindful choices with our spending.
Did you know that only 1% of the global wealth increase since the turn of the century has gone to the poorest half of the world’s population? Meanwhile, half of new wealth has been scooped up by the richest 1%. In 2017, just 8 people held as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion combined. It’s a staggering statistic to digest.
This massive inequality is largely due to ‘shareholder capitalism’. Back in the 70s a typical US Corporation would return about 33% of its profits to shareholders. Today it’s a whopping 70%. And this trend of funnelling profits to shareholders isn’t just happening in the US, it’s a worldwide issue.
The good news is, as individuals we have the power to make a positive impact in righting these global inequities through our spending. Every purchase we make is a vote for the type of world we want to live in, and conscious consumerism is our chance to cast that vote.
It’s about using our hard-earned money to choose brands, products and services that are doing right by the world over the unethical ones.
As consumers, the more we demand ethical brands, products and services, the more commonplace they’ll be, and the cheaper they’ll become, which makes them more accessible for everyone.
And the more we demand suppliers to behave ethically, the more they are held accountable to make conscious business decisions.
The trick is to keep the momentum going. Like any movement that challenges the status quo, it takes time and effort to grow and succeed.
But progress is happening. In the UK, the John Lewis Partnership has changed the game by having their 83,000 workers co-own the department store chain which has annual sales of over £11 billion.
We’re also seeing a rise in initiatives like the B Corp movement. A not-for-profit initiative it's enabling businesses to balance people, planet, and profit, and become a force for good. In NZ, we’ve got over 80 certified B Corp organisations, including big names like KiwiBank and Kathmandu, as well as small enterprises like Zay Bags.
And let’s not forget about the pioneers of the Fair Trade movement. Dating back to the 1940s, the movement was officially established as the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) in 1989. With members in 76 countries, the WFTO is all about serving marginalised communities and putting people and planet first.
TradeAid is also a great example of a conscious organisation that puts people and the planet first in everything they do. They use the WFTO’s fair trade principles and their own Charter to guide their work to bring about lasting change through honest, transparent, and equal partnerships.
To become a more conscious consumer, you can follow these simple steps:
- Educate yourself on the brands, products and services you're buying
- Look for ethical alternatives where possible
- Choose products with fair trade certification and ethical labels
- Support small, local businesses
- Choose quality over quantity
- Consider pre-owned options
We can all make real, impactful change through our purchasing power. As Anita Roddick from The Body Shop famously said, “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”
So let’s use our wallets to vote for a better future, one where global inequity is a thing of the past.
Article references and for more info check out: www.wfto.com; www.sustaintrust.org.nz; www.bcorporation.net; www.tradeaid.org.nz