The final topic of our 3-part Simplify series was Spending Ethically, and the associated 7-day challenge was to research one company per day from whom you purchase. (If you’d like to do some research of your own, Free2Work and GoodGuide are excellent resources.) There are many categories that fall under “ethical spending,” including health, environmental, and social impacts, though we chose to focus on the social impacts in particular. For example, here are the grades for Apple, the tech company into which I pour the most money:
Overall, I discovered that companies are making progress in policies, transparency, and monitoring efforts, but worker rights still lag behind. This is a HUGE social problem because there are an estimated 27 million+ people in modern-day slavery, a large percentage of whom are in forced labor. It’s not a question of whether slaves have contributed to our daily lives, but how much. In fact, you can get a rough estimate at SlaveryFootprint.org – I have at least 40 slaves working for me.
What can we as individuals do to change such a system? Of course the answer is to begin with our own choices and lifestyles. Yet even then, the number of changes that could/should be made are overwhelming! I’ve found it helpful to choose 1 thing to change at a time, and to return back to these realities and questions every so often. In one of my first passes at this issue, I committed to recycling so as to reduce my environmental impact. Perhaps a year later on my second pass, I committed to buying only fair-trade coffee so that workers are paid fair wages. On another pass, I committed to generally try to spend less by making fewer “want-based” purchases, in hopes that that would help reduce my slavery footprint. This time around with the Simplify campaign, Natalie and I joined Friends & Farms, a regional community-supported agriculture (CSA). This will hopefully help in all 3 categories of environmental, health, and social impact. Each change that we’ve made has been a small, manageable step towards spending more ethically and living more justly, as Jesus calls us to do.
What have you discovered in your own research on ethical spending? What changes have you made to spend more ethically? Share in the comments below!