With the current state of fast fashion, unethical practices, and mass production, the idea of voting with your dollar has been reaching popularity. It’s for those of us who want to see a change and cringe at the thought of supporting a company we don’t agree with for various reasons. This blog post is going to discuss what it means to vote with your dollar, why you should, and how to do it.
What Does “Vote With Your Dollar” Mean?
When someone tells you to “vote with your dollar”, they usually mean support businesses you agree with. This could mean you agree with their working conditions, their devotion to sustainability, the organizations they donate to, etc. Just like with normal voting, the way you vote with your dollar will differ from the way other people do. And that’s completely alright, as long as we all can agree to not support companies who run off of child or slave labor and horrible working conditions (sorry, I had to get that out of the way now).
The way I vote with my dollar is going to look completely different than the way you vote with your dollar. This is why I’m not going to openly state what I avoid in brands and specific reasons I avoid them–outside of those who partake in universally unethical practices. At the end of the blog post, I will add some links to websites and articles that will help you make decisions on where you spend.
Why Does it Matter?
When you vote with your dollar, you are telling companies that you disagree with their ethics. You are telling them that you don’t appreciate them donating to an organization with your money. When you stop funding a business, you stop funding behavior that you disagree with. This is why it’s so important to do a quick Google search and see how a company gets its materials and ingredients before shopping. Here are just a few things companies get away with:
Child Labor and Forced Labor
Many large companies have their employees working under harsh or even dangerous conditions in countries like China or India (see below for a link to a list of all countries affected). When you spend money on these businesses, you are directly funding this behavior. This is one of the most common reasons people decide to kick their favorite fashion company or chocolate manufacturer to the curb.
Today, many businesses have taken political stances and donate to organizations with your money. To me, this is very important because I don’t want organizations I 100% disagree with to be funded with my money. Businesses aren’t always vocal about where they donate their money to, so you will have to do some searching. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a company who doesn’t donate to the same places as their competition (phone companies or grocery chains).
Working Around Laws to Save Money
It’s obviously illegal to partake in forced labor, slavery, and excessive child labor in the United States and most developed countries. You may be wondering how your favorite running shoe company, chocolate company, and inexpensive fashion company (cough) can get away with profiting off of slavery. When a company decides to not give Americans jobs because they want to keep 90% of the profit for their products, they usually outsource their jobs to countries in Asia or Africa. Most of these countries do not have strict laws against slavery or child labor, thus making it easy for a company to get around laws.
Most companies hide their practices from their consumers because they know they are partaking in horrible practices. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to reprimand a large business for doing shady dealings in other countries. Luckily, the United States Department of Labor has many different articles about what to avoid when voting with your dollar.
How to Vote With Your Dollar
The short answer to this is: do your research. When I’m shopping, you’ll see me whip out my phone to look up a brand’s sustainability, employee working conditions, and sourcing. Often times, there are alternatives to businesses who aren’t engaging in, quite frankly, crappy practices and dealing. You will have to put in some effort, and maybe even some more money, but it is SO worth it.
You know how your neighbor’s cousin owns a local clothing store that’s downtown? Go and support them! Okay, maybe your neighbor’s cousin doesn’t own their own business, but my point is, support local families instead of huge corporations. When you shop at a local business, you are supporting your local economy and you are supporting a family. Often times, the items you find at local businesses haven’t been produced through slavery. You can look up the brand names of items while you are in the stores if you are not convinced.
Shop on Etsy
Etsy shops are usually family-owned businesses who have high-quality and ethically made products. If you are looking for handmade items like furniture, clothing, and jewelry, Etsy is perfect. The shop owners run off of and rely on good reviews, so they usually produce amazing items. When supporting a large corporation, your one bad review isn’t going to damage their image, so they don’t put much care into their products. The next time you need something, check out Etsy and see if you can find what you’re looking for.
Steer Clear of Fast Fashion
If you have never heard of the term “fast fashion”, it is essentially cheap clothing that you will throw away within a few weeks or months. Are several brands popping into your mind? Not only has clothing waste increased drastically from all of the clothing being produced, but these companies are usually involved with forced labor as well. It is much more sustainable, ethical, and cost-effective to purchase long-lasting clothing items instead of paper-thin shirts that will get ruined in two weeks. Please look at the links below for articles filled with facts about specific companies.
Support Local Farmers
Most large grocery chains donate their profits to organizations that you might not agree with, or get their food from different countries. Depending on your state, there is a good chance you can get your fruits and vegetables from a local farmer’s market. Just like with shopping local, you are supporting your local economy, and let’s be honest, 99% of farmers are super sweet people.
If you are a meat eater, you should really support your local farmers. We all know that animals are not treated very well by large companies who are just waiting to sell them. I’m sure many people would disagree with me, but local farmers truly care about their animals. They make their income off of their couple of cows and chickens, so they treat them with respect. The farms in my area are off of our highway, so everyone can see what the cows look like, what they are eating, and how they are treated. So, support your local farmers and support animals being treated fairly.
Check Company Policies
Many companies are open about where they donate to and their sustainability. For example, Sprouts donates their food that isn’t up to their selling standards (bruised or misshaped) to local food banks. When I volunteer at my local food bank, the shelves are always filled with Sprouts products. If it is not up to consumable standards, they donate the food to local farmers so they can feed their livestock. How awesome is that!? Always check the policies of businesses in your area before shopping.
Do Your Research
As promised many times above, here is my big section of links. The information listed in these articles could be inaccurate because fortunately, companies are improving their ethics every day.
U.S. Department of Labor:
- List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labor (and countries involved)
Articles on Child Labor:
- Worst Countries For Child Labor
- 10 Companies That Still Use Child Labor
- Top 28 Companies That Use Child Labor
- Products Made by Child Labor
Articles on Forced or Slave Labor:
Fashion Industry and Sweatshops
- Five Fashion Brands That Use Sweatshops
- 2019 Ethical Fashion Report by the Baptist World Aid Australia
- Shop Ethical’s Brand Comparison (must see)
- Fast Fashion Brands to Avoid
- 2ndVote: Lists where each company has made donations.
I will be sure to add new links whenever I find articles and websites. Please leave any that I missed in the comments below! I hope I helped you understand what it means to vote with your dollar and stick up for what you believe in.