I’m one of those people who says that she’s not religious, but is very spiritual. By this, I just mean that I don’t identify with a specific religion, but spend alot of time thinking about the big questions in life: Why are we here? How did we get here? What happens when we die? Ultimately, I just try to make compassion-based decisions. So, rather than doing/not doing something based on what a book, a person, or a god tells me, I try to do things that benefit living creatures and not do things that harm living creatures.
Lately, I’ve been tweeting about how disappointed I am in companies like The Gap and Target that refused to sign a global agreement to hold companies responsible for poor conditions in garment factories in Bangladesh. Some of these companies, including The Gap, say that they will be making their own reform policies, which is good. Even so, it bothers me that so many big American companies are scared away by binding arbitration when many huge European companies immediately signed the agreement. It didn’t surprise me that a company like WalMart didn’t want to sign because the company is known for not valuing its employees, customers, or suppliers. After sweatshops scandals awhile back, The Gap made a big effort to become a more socially responsible company. They even started P.A.C.E., a program close to my heart because it offers work skills and education to women in developing countries. So, I was very disappointed to find out that The Gap did not want to sign the agreement for better work conditions in Bangladesh because the company wanted to be able to use its highly-paid lawyers to get out of any legal judgments that it didn’t like.
On the other end of the spectrum, Abercrombie & Fitch did sign the agreement. I could just take the money that I spend at The Gap and give it to A&F, but I’m not a teenager. Oh yeah, and A&F doesn’t want me shopping there anyway because I’m fat and ugly. I run into similar dilemmas time and again. I can use Aveda products because they do not test on animals, but I can’t afford their products and my sensitive skin can’t handle using the products. My feet have high arches and are shaped like isosceles triangles. So, I need shoes that will fit my weird feet comfortably, are affordable, and aren’t made with leather or suede. Most shoes seem to also be made in China. I try to avoid buying Chinese products because the government does not treat its citizens very well. However, as the Chinese government slowly adopts more business-friendly policies and its citizens become increasingly aware of the rights they should have, companies are shifting their manufacturing facilities to other countries. I don’t own many shoes, but when I do buy a new pair, I take all of these things into consideration. Most of the time, I end up buying cheap, but comfortable, shoes made in China or more expensive, but comfortable, shoes made out of leather in the U.S.
I think that money gives consumers a great deal of voting power in our daily lives. So, I know that every time I buy a service or product, I am telling companies that I either do or do not support them, their labor policies, their manufacturing policies, and their financial policies. Because I feel that compassion is the most important core value, I try to buy compassionately, even though it’s very complicated. I refuse to be a freegan, so I make compromises on a daily basis in regards to consumption and compassion. I also try to be compassionate with myself and those around me, reminding myself that nobody is perfect and that we can only do what we can do. You are probably already aware that every decision you make affects the people closest to you, but I encourage you to also become more informed about how the products and services you buy affect the world in which we all live.