Ethics is a complex concept to define. It can refer to one’s morals or principles but it also emcompasses a whole new gamut of ethical living that has only recently been defined as a specific lifestyle.
It’s definitely not something I had thought about or analysed in the past, but growing up I had always unknowingly been conscious about what I buy (even before it became fashionable to buy less), not because it was a constraint but because I thought I could invest in something else that brings me more joy. Like going to the cinema or a music concert, having a meal or going bowling with my friends. I suppose I was unconsciously aware that 'stuff' doesn't give you lasting happiness. It's no surprise that recent research has shown that experiences make people happier than buying stuff.
Being ethical, to me, includes the following three aspects:
- Live and let live, for all living beings!
I’ve always been a strong advocate for animals rights and have volunteered for various organisations that worked hard to prevent animal abuse and cruelty. I decided that being on the front line of organisations that rescue animals from abuse or accidents was not something I could deal well with emotionally. It made me more anxious, angry and helpless as there were innumerable cases coming in every single day. I was not strong enough to deal with the trauma these animals faced so I instead started volunteering on the administrative side of things.
“All life deserves respect, dignity, and compassion. All life.” -Anonymous
I believe that animals are sentient beings just like us. The biggest ethical question we face in this time, but choose to ignore, is that of animal agriculture. Thousands of animals bred purposefully using massive amounts of land, water and resources just to be slaughtered? It just doesn't make sense to me! Animals are crammed into small enclosures to maximise the number of animals raised, fed with cheap GMO (genetically modified organism) foods, pumped with hormones and antibiotics to achieve maximum profit.
Are animals any less of a sentient being than we are? Absolutely not! They have feelings and emotions and can feel joy, pain, sadness, fear and many other emotions just like us. It’s beyond me why some animals like dogs and cats are treated well and whose rights are upheld but at the same time other animals like cows, pigs and chickens are bred only to be slaughtered? Let’s take a step back to really think about this and see if this actually makes sense! I believe in speaking on behalf of those who cannot and spreading awareness about the harsh realities of the animal agriculture industry and some of the hypocrisy surrounding selective animal rights.
- Doing the right thing when it comes to the people
This is a no-brainer! We need to treat people how we would like to be treated. As simple as that. We all want to work in safe conditions, be paid a fair and living wage, be treated with respect and dignity. It’s not too much to ask for, it’s the least we would all expect. Sadly, this is not what the reality is. In the context of not just the fashion industry, but also many other labour intensive industries around the world, workers rights are compromised as a result of profit maximisation and greed.
“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed” - Mahatma Gandhi
Ethical consumerism addresses the issues surrounding human rights and dignity by making sure there is more emphasis laid on transparency throughout the supply chain. Brands that are serious about their commitment to this cause might also get certified by fair trade organisations to seal that commitment.
We can all do our bit in supporting fair trade practises by buying from brands that share the same values as we do. Awareness about ethical business practises has grown immensely over the last few years, with consumers demanding more from the brands they buy from. They are also more likely to pay a higher price for brands that ‘do good’ and follow a purpose as part of their business ethic.
3. Protecting our planet and our natural surroundings
Let’s face it, there is no planet B or C for that matter! We have one planet and we need to protect it from ourselves. Why I say ‘ourselves’ is because never in the history of our planet has one species created such havoc by polluting our land, water and air, more than right now. The effects of climate change and pollution are affecting our day to day functioning and health and we need to take drastic measures to stop this in its tracks!
"It's surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth." - David Attenborough
Coming from a tradition where nature is worshipped, it saddens me to see the destruction all around us. The deforestation, air and water pollution, overuse of pesticides in farming, to name a few, have all led to extinction of animals as well as deteriorating health for all living beings.
I have seen loss of green cover, water shortages and severe air pollution at close quarters in my home town in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. It’s one thing to be proud of economic prosperity, but quite another to be living in a burgeoning city with dwindling green spaces and polluted air and water. All these issues have cropped up in my lifetime alone so I shudder to think what future generations might have to grapple with. I believe growth and economic development can co-exist with a clean and green environment if there is enough political and social will. We need to want it bad enough to make it happen!
Ethical brands address all these issues by taking care of the environment by making sure the manufacturing processes as well as the raw materials used are eco-friendly and sustainable. Sustainability is the key to maintaining the health of our natural world. More and more businesses are incorporating sustainable business practises and rightly so.
Ethical consumerism has gained considerable momentum over the last few years owing to various reasons including human rights, sustainability as well as animal rights. Millennials as a demographic are acutely aware of issues like climate change and want to make conscious and informed decisions. They are also more demanding consumers and react and respond to unethical practises in business and society with a strong rhetoric, therefore keeping businesses in check.
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