Sweatshop labour is wrong, unless the camera's good

by George Lovell | | 0 comments

Sustainability is playing an increasingly key role in consumers' habits and buying decisions.

People want to feel good about who, what and where they're getting their products from.

One report by Deloitte investigated sustainable attitudes and behaviours. They found that the adoption of sustainable lifestyles is on the rise.

In 2022, 59% of UK adults reduced the number of new products they buy, solely with the goal of leading a more sustainable life. This is up from 39% in 2021 - a huge increase.

53% repaired an item instead of replacing it with a brand new, equivalent item. 38% of people surveyed did this for an electrical item such as a mobile phone or laptop.

40% bought second-hand/refurbished items. 29% of people surveyed did this for an electrical item such as a mobile phone or laptop.

40% chose brands that have environmentally sustainable practices/values.

An increasing number of consumers elect to support companies that take a responsible approach to
their use of water, energy and finite raw materials. People are also more concerned with social sustainability, which comprises working conditions, fair wages and employee welfare.

Companies recognise this trend, which is why they take every opportunity to emphasise their commitment to the environment, as if the fact that their product packaging is made from 37% recycled materials makes up for all the lives and ecosystems they destroy. 

Even so, brands like Apple and Amazon continue to grow at exponential rates, despite being notorious for poor working conditions and unsustainable business practices.

Even though we care about the environment and sustainability, we cannot deny how much we love the more affordable, convenient, prestigious products that these companies provide - so much so, that we'll readily turn a blind eye to their dubious ethics.

Studies have proven that the more we desire a product, the less concerned we become with how it was made. Furthermore, we make more critical judgements on other people's buying decisions than our own.

As they say in consumer behaviour research groups: Sweatshop labour is wrong, unless the shoes are cute.    

This demonstrates the insane power of brand and consumer loyalty. We find ways to rationalise buying these products - or better yet, just "zone out" all the guilt and shame that would get in the way of enjoying the product.

Fortunately/unfortunately, the product is ready for us when we walk into the store, as opposed to a made-to-order system whereby we watch a child descend into the Earth to mine the cobalt needed to power the battery in the phone that we just ordered.

People get very defensive when confronted with their own cognitive dissonance. Especially those that rage tweet about unsustainable business practices from their iPhone.

Look at all the products that you use today. Would you be willing to pay a little more, wait a little longer, or use a less distinguished brand for the health and welfare of people you'll never meet? Maybe you would for some products, but not for others. Sometimes the alternative is unaffordable, or just plain sucks - though the gap is certainly closing. And how much difference does it really make? Who knows...

I'm not not going to use a smartphone, and neither are you. It doesn't mean we should abandon all efforts to make more mindful, less wasteful decisions.

What's really required is stricter enforcement of laws and regulations which hold companies accountable for their unethical business practices. But that might be a pipe dream.

We should acknowledge that things do generally appear to be getting better, with more and more companies making real, well-intentioned progress towards sustainability goals. Let's hope that this effort is reflected in the relevant data in the coming years. 

Hey, it's all just more reason to repair your electronics or trade-in your device for a refurbished one from Talkback. We extend product life cycles, use reclaimed parts and accessories, recycle waste, and treat our staff well!

Thanks for reading!

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