I mentioned in last week’s post that I trained a fashion designer whilst I was in Italy. My client is world famous and is known as the “King of Cashmere” in Italy. During the week’s course, we discussed a number of topics and one of them was about ethical shopping.
Apart for a strong work ethic, my client is renowned for his ethics in business. He decided long ago that he wanted to run his business in an ethical, honest and fair way. He told me what running an ethical business means to him – fair wages, fair price and an honest profit.
Paying a good and fair wage
First of all, he says that you need to treat the people who work for you, whether directly or indirectly, fairly. He explained to me that if you treat people well and pay them a good wage, you give them a sense of pride and dignity as human beings.
In turn, you, as their employer, will have their loyalty, and they will work more productively for you.
Whether you source your workforce locally or abroad, you have a responsibility to ensure that their working and pay conditions are good and that they are able to live a dignified life. You don’t want to be responsible for having created sweat shops and exploited workers especially in low-wage economies.
Charging a higher but fair price to consumers
If you’re going to pay your workers a fair price and ensure that their working conditions are good, you will have to accept that your product is going to be priced at above the market average.
However, in today’s world of cheap goods, consumers often look for the latest bargains. If you look at the fashion world, shoppers always seek low cost/high fashion items. So, if you’re looking to compete in this market what do you do as a business? I asked my client this question and this is what he replied.
He strongly believes that as consumers, we should always seek to find out where and how the product we’re purchasing is sourced. If we believe that everyone deserves to earn a decent living and live life in a dignified way, then we should be prepared to pay a little more for the product.
Making an honest and fair profit
If you ask most consumers, they say that they would willingly pay more for good quality products. Alas, quality doesn’t always equal ethical.
There are companies that charge their customers a lot of money for top quality but pay obscenely little in production costs. As consumers, we should, therefore, also look carefully at the companies we buy from to ensure that the profit they’re making is honest and fair.
For example, if you buy a cashmere cardigan that costs $1,000 and then find out that the company’s production costs were $60, would you be comfortable knowing that the company has made a huge profit (unreasonable, I would say) at the expense of the workers and you as the consumer? I know I wouldn’t.
As I was wandering around the shops the other day looking for some clothes, I realised that the key to shopping ethically is to buy fewer items of clothing. Certainly in the West there is a tendency to prefer quantity over quality. We would rather buy 10 T-shirts at £4 each than 3 T-shirts for £10 each. We have also become a throwaway society where the appreciation of what we have has been lost.
Talking to my client made me think of how I shop and made me also appreciate him as an entrepreneur and person. He is truly inspirational.
As we approach Christmas, my mind is certainly more focused on how and where I buy. I’d like to think that I am an ethical shopper but I know I could be better. That’s it – I have my New Year’s Resolution.
Are you an ethical shopper? Do you believe that as consumers we have a responsibility to ensure businesses behave ethically?
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Ciao for now
PS If you’d like to learn more vocabulary on the topic of ethical shopping, do take a look at the British Council Learn English website. I also got my inspiration from them.
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