In this digital age, shopping is easier than ever—the world is our ever-expanding market and we can have just about anything shipped to our door within days. And while timely convenience is great, shopping online also offers the conscious consumer a chance to support ethical businesses—and bypass harmful practices.
While there’s plenty of pros to online shopping, our hands-free purchases can still have a negative environmental and social impact. It’s important to interrupt our auto-pilot buying habits with awareness so we can ensure our money goes to companies that respect both their workers and the Earth.
Of course, searching local small businesses is the best first step. But if you find yourself online, I recommend following the tips below to help you find your most ethical and eco-responsible options.
Skip the Big-Name Storefronts.
If you’re in the habit of defaulting to Amazon, or department stores, and other big-name storefronts, practice saving these options as your last resort. Less transport time means less pollution, so try to buy directly from the maker. Also, when you purchase through a company’s own website, your money goes directly to them, rather than to a third party brand with values you may or may not support.
The “About Page” is Your Best Friend
Whether it’s a new brand you’ve just discovered or a brand you’ve followed for years—find their About page. Before looking at anything else on their website, I encourage you to read about the brand’s origin and mission. Pay attention to the amount of thought and care that went into their about page. The more information they give you about their brand’s inner workings, the better. And if a company doesn’t have an “about” page or it’s sparse and vague, be wary.
A conscious consumer is just as passionate about their relationship with the people behind the product, as they are about the product itself.
Investigate Their Factory Conditions
Once you feel confident about the people behind the brand, investigate the company’s factory conditions. If a brand is practicing ethical conditions for their employees, they’ll tell you. Look for signs that the brand is not just all talk—certifications and standards are the most surefire way to prove that a brand is serious about their commitment to their employees. A few stellar certifications to look for are: Certified B Corporation, Fair Trade Certified, and Bluesign Certified.
Check their Environmental Impact
Next, take a look and see what the brand is doing to offset their environmental impact. Remember—if they’re truly passionate about environmental causes, they’ll tell you. Brands will hide where they fall short, but rarely do they hide their achievements. Once again look for certifications or standards they have that minimize their environmental impact. A few certifications to keep an eye out for are: GOTS Certified, 1% for the Planet, and Rainforest Alliance Certified.
Brands will hide where they fall short, but rarely do they hide their achievements.
Do they Give Back?
You know you’ve struck gold when you find a brand that is not only socially and environmentally responsible, but also gives back to causes that align with their mission. Look for charity contributions, organization partnerships, and any programs that the company has itself launched in an effort to give back.
Pick Your Best Option
It’s not always easy to find brands with equal conviction for both ethical and environmental causes, but it is possible. The goal as a conscious consumer is to exercise awareness and make decisions that align most closely to your convictions and beliefs. It’s a game that requires research and patience, but one that rewards your efforts with the confidence that you are supporting good people and the planet.