Conscious Consumerism. Ethical Consumption. Fair Trade. All are powerful ideas. They are goals toward which many of us strive. We intend to make responsible consumer decisions, but we struggle to decipher irresponsible corporations from those we can trust. We work to reduce our carbon footprint but the jungle of global capitalism is difficult to navigate. We are bombarded every day with stories of domestic sweatshops and images of international slavery.
We may be confused, but opportunities to support ethical enterprise are growing up around us. Like Buycott and Inhabitat and Ten Thousand Villages. Along these lines, labor leaders around the world are working with a coalition of clothing manufacturers, retailers and industry trade groups to develop a single, unified action plan to prevent future tragedies like the most recent in Bangladesh. The Accord on Building and Fire Safety requires rigorous independent inspections of factories in Bangladesh and will finance improvements for fire and building safety. At least forty multinational companies have signed on, including only three US retailers (Sean John most recently).
Many have not. Ecouterre, a website devoted to the future of sustainable design, reports that the following fifteen have refused to sign the Accord.
American Eagle Outfitters
The Children’s Place
These businesses, as free and conscious enterprises, may refuse to sign on. We, as free and conscious consumers, may refuse to support them.
Borrowing the words of John Powell, “To live fully, we must learn to use things and love people, and not love things and use people.”