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Ethical Shopping

A guide to shopping ethically – not just for Valentine’s Day

How to make a real difference with ethical shopping habits

Ethical Shopping

February is really special to us. You’re all aware that it’s the month of love….but did you know it’s also a celebration of all things fair trade? Yes, it’s #Fairbruary

In this post, we’ll introduce you to conscious consumerism and some general ethical shopping options. In the next few weeks, we’ll then show you a range of wonderful – and affordable – every-day products that you may not know are actually fairly traded. (Look out for our fabulous “Fairtrade Five” mini posts, everything from sweets to jewellery!)

But first, let us tell you what ethical shopping is, and why it is important.

It may be quick and cheap to buy Valentine’s gifts for your loved one in massive online retailers or fast-fashion stores, but shopping there often comes at a heavy, long-term cost for consumers, workers, and the planet. 

The good news: you can buy thoughtful and ethically produced goods at reasonable prices. An increasing number of consumers are starting to do just that. We’ll show you how to discover ethical brands!

Graphic on ethical consumerism choices

What is ethical consumerism and why is it important?

Simply put, ethical shopping – also called “ethical consumerism” – means that you actively avoid or stop buying products from companies that, for example:

    • Damage the climate and the environment.
    • Pay workers unfair wages.
    • Use child labour.
    • Offer terrible working conditions.
    • Rely on dodgy supply chains.
    • Endanger animals.

Additional factors to consider are whether companies use unethical marketing techniques or have questionable financial or political links.

Ethical consumers will put their hard-earned cash to good use. They do this by investing in products or services from retailers that have a proven track record in: 

    • Helping independent or smaller businesses thrive.
    • Supporting local artisans with a living wage.
    • Investing in ethically sourced and fairly traded produce.
    • Safeguarding workers’ (and human) rights.
    • Protecting the environment.
    • Improving children’s and animals’ welfare.

There has been progress in these areas, but more needs to be done – especially since the onset of the pandemic. For example, for the first time in twenty years, child labour increased globally again in 2021 and Covid-19 further drove down the wages of the most vulnerable.

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Some organisations that support conscious consumerism


There are many organisations that help you shop ethically. We’ll introduce a few of them – and some of their wonderful products – below.

British Association of Fairtrade Shops and Suppliers (BAFTS)


All members of BAFTS  – including Karakorum – must adhere to the 10 Principles of Fair Trade, so you can buy with a good conscience. Their shops also have to source at least 60% of their stock from certified Fairtrade suppliers. It’s worth noting that some of Karakorum’s suppliers can’t yet afford to be certified, but we are working with them to reach the Fairtrade standard. 

eBay for Change programme

This new initiative was launched in partnership with Social Enterprise UK, the World Fair Trade Organisation and UnLtd in June 2021. The eBay for Change programme helps social and ethical enterprises like Karakorum that support marginalised and vulnerable communities. 

It connects its chosen brands to eBay’s 29 million shoppers, offers training, marketing investments, and a free feature on eBay’s new social enterprise shopping hub.
What makes eBay for Change enterprises like us different is that we reinvest our profits from this programme into the communities we support.

This ties in well with the UK consumers’ shift in buying habits. A survey featured in the eBay Shop for Change Report (PDF) shows that the attitude to shopping changed dramatically with the Covid-19 pandemic. Of 5,000 UK consumers surveyed in Feb – May 2021,
 

    • 81% revealed that “their approach to shopping had changed”,
    • 69% believed that “businesses have an important role to play in tackling societal and environmental issues”,
    • 56% thought that “it’s more important to buy from businesses that give back to society than before the pandemic”,
    • 51% put in more time to research a purchase than before lockdown, and
    • 29% said that businesses that give back to society were “the future of retail”.

We at Karakorum are happy to see this shift. Hopefully, many more ethical and social enterprises will be chosen for the eBay for Change programme!

Ebay for change logo

Ethical Consumer magazine

The Ethical Consumer Magazine is a trustworthy resource to check before deciding to buy anything. Published by the Ethical Consumer Research Association since 1989, it provides reports and tools to make the most ethical and eco-friendly purchasing choices. Simply check the ratings of your chosen product or brand online. These usually include details on environmental impact, workers’ rights, animal testing, and any involvement in local or global politics or finance. 

The Ethical Consumer is also well-known for its campaigns and boycotts against companies like Amazon. To view all reports, ethical shoppers need to register and pay a small yearly subscription, but it’s well worth the cost.

Recommended ethical labels

The Ethical Consumer recommends looking out for the following labels when making a purchase:

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Ethical brands and fair trade products your partner will love

Below, we’ll share some quick tips about ethical companies and/or eco-friendly brands or platforms you could buy from.  Don’t forget: you have the power to make a difference with each purchase you make! Not only can you lower your carbon footprint, but your purchases will often support local communities and also improve animal welfare.

Spoil your loved one with eco-friendly and ethical fashion & jewellery

Sustainable fabrics and better working conditions for staff are crucial for the slow fashion industry. My Green Closet lists many sustainable fashion brands for women and men. 

eBay for Change also has a handy directory of women’s and men’s fashion, including beautiful jewellery. 

Organic, cruelty-free cosmetics are always a winner

You can find lovely beauty products in Ethical Revolution’s health & beauty directory, the Fairtrade Foundation’s beauty products, or eBay for Change’s cosmetics pages. 

The Ethical Consumer Magazine also provides a comprehensive make-up guide. It’s especially useful as you can check whether your chosen products are cruelty-free.

Get cosy with fairly traded and ethical homeware

Enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner and snuggle up afterwards on your comfy sofa. Sounds good? Then our Moroccan style glass lanterns and Malabar throws will be the right Valentine’s gift choice for you. 

Apart from our own beautiful ethically sourced homeware there are many gorgeous ethical shops out there. If you are looking for rugs go and have a look at The Anou – an amazing forward-thinking marketplace where you can buy your rug direct from the artisans in Morocco and watch it getting made!

Why not give greener gadgets to your partner?

From mobiles to new household appliances, it’s a good idea to check how ethical and eco-friendly your choices are. Ethical consumption starts with thorough research, so the Ethical Consumer is a good starting point again in this case. 

Ethical Revolution also has a few recommendations, for example, the Fair Phone.

Or…simply opt for second-hand and homemade gifts!

Don’t forget that often, high-quality second-hand products and thoughtful homemade gifts (such as cakes, knitted scarves, and so on) can be the way forward. You also can get new second-hand books and lovely gifts from charity shops or online.

Finally, creating great memories doesn’t have to be pricey. A romantic walk, playing a board game, cooking and eating together are all lovely and meaningful  – and they’re (almost) free.

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Responsible shopping doesn’t have to be hard or expensive

We hope we’ve shown you that buying ethically isn’t difficult. It may take a little research into more ethical options at first, but the online directories we’ve introduced above have already done a lot of the hard work for you. 

For further information on making better choices, you may enjoy reading Jen Gale’s inspiring blog about her “conscious consumption” journey, too.

Think smart, shop ethical – and have a lovely Valentine’s Day! ❤

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PS. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for our new Fairtrade Five posts, which we’ll run throughout February 2022. We’ll introduce you to a fantastic range of fair trade products that don’t break the bank.