As global citizens, we wield our power to affect change through conscious consumerism. Each time we make a purchase, we directly support business activities that have measurable effects on our society and environment. The production process behind every product we consume embodies social and environmental practices, ranging from labor policies to materials sourced to stakeholder relations, some more responsible than others. In lieu of compounding governmental failure to ensure ethical business practices and enforce policies which promote social and environmental sustainability, we must instead rely on market-driven forces. We can make purchasing selections in favor of businesses that positively impact society and the environment. We can vote with our dollars!
Leveraging purchasing power for good aligns the competitiveness of a company with the health of not only its beneficiaries, but also the larger community that it directly or indirectly affects. It is the best way for an individual to not only support responsible business, but also strengthen the sustainable economy as a whole and lead others to engage in socially and environmentally sustainable living.
There are many ways to make responsible purchases. Buying locally manufactured products reduces the carbon footprint of distribution. This also applies to purchasing locally farmed food, which has exponential social and environmental impacts. Recycling is an obvious one but Upcycling, or the repurposing of materials and products for new use and value, can be as effective. Buying second hand household products and clothing is a vote against fast fashion and mass production. Social and environmental enterprises, or for-profit companies which adhere to an ethical bottom line, create positive impact and shared value as a direct result of their business activities. For example, Conscious Step, a triple bottom line company which we at Lightfoot admire greatly, sources organic cotton to produce environmentally sustainable socks in India, in fair trade conditions, and donates a portion of its revenues to one of six socially or environmentally impactful initiatives.
To match consumer demand for ethically responsible business, many companies who don’t directly adhere to specific environmental and social missions are overhauling their supply chains to comply with current national and international standards of sustainability. You can look out for the many eco labels on product packaging. While it may be difficult to differentiate between them, they are evaluated on everything from the environmental impact of distribution to transparency and diversity. Information is always provided online for those who want to learn more about the certification standard frameworks and auditing processes.
Living sustainably is not only about being conscious of what you consume, but also how you consume it. For example, buying high-quality, long lasting products is a vote against the planned obsolescence that contributes to the 100 tons of garbage in the North Pacific Gyre. It is as much about awareness of the business practices and materials used to produce and deliver goods, as it is about daily lifestyle choices.
To learn more about the many ways our vendors create positive impact, check out our Building Blocks and feel free to contact us with any questions!