The Dilemma of Ethical Shopping

Though I am somewhat reluctant to admit it, my wallet does contain Old Navy and Victoria’s Secret credit cards, and yes I do use them.  The part of me that values ethical business practices cringes each time I pull them out, but my addiction to shopping wins the fight every time.  All that has changed, though, and I’m going to tell you why.

First, the bad news, that way we can end on a good note.  I did a little research on Victoria’s Secret’s business policies, and it was bad news bears.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve known about the ongoing accusations of child labor and sweatshops, but I avoided looking into the subject just in case the accusations were true.  Their panties are just so darn comfy!  But I can only hide from the truth for so long before my conscious starts kicking and screaming, and today it finally forced me out from underneath my rock.  I had to face the fact that one of my favorite clothing brands is owned by a company infamous for using toxic ingredients and testing on animals.  Victoria’s Secret is owned by The Limited, which also owns Bath & Body Works, whose products are chock full of parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, and lead. Check out The Limited’s ingredient info: “Parabens are safe and approved for use in many of the major international markets… [and] Phthalates play an important role in everyday life and are used in a variety of products, including cosmetics” (LimitedBrands.com).  The sad thing is, people actually believe this.

But don’t worry, they test all their products animals before they sell them to you.  The best part is, they flat out admit it.  Well, sort of.  B&BW’s website says this: “We believe all living creatures deserve respect and would never think of testing any of our products on animals. Likewise, we don’t ask anyone who may be helping us develop or make our products to conduct these kinds of tests on our behalf,” but The Limited’s website says, “Company policy prohibits the testing of our branded products, formulations and ingredients on animals except in rare cases.”  Get your story straight, Limited.  You obviously do think about testing on animals.  Which means I will no longer think about buying your brands.  Bye bye, Vicky Secret credit card.  I will miss you.  Sort of.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely need some good news right now.  Thankfully, my favorite clothing brand readily supplied some.  Not only does The Gap ethically source its materials and labor (yes, there were some accusations of sweatshops conditions, but these have been addressed) but it does not test any of its products on animals.  The company adheres to a Human Rights Policy it developed in 2010, as well as a Code of Vendor Conduct, which you can find on their website: http://www.gapinc.com/content/csr/html/OurResponsibility.html.  Gap also participates in several environmental organizations, including the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy.  As if that weren’t enough to make up for my disappointment in The Limited, Gap also supports several social organizations around the world.  The article that sparked the investigation into the pockets of my wallet was from Athleta, my favorite of the Gap brands.  They’ve recently partnered with an organization called Girls on the Run, a group working to keep young girls happy, active, and confident in themselves. Molly Barker, the founder of Girls on the Run, aims to teach girls that, “EVERYONE comes to earth with a set of gifts… these gifts are uniquely ours and how when we use our gifts the world’s work gets done” (Athleta.com).  Kudos, Gap.  I won’t feel bad about keeping your credit card.  Or using it.  (I have a feeling my card balance is going to sharply increase because of this post.  Dammit.)

Here are some good websites about ethical shopping:

http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/responsibleshopper/learn_hub.cfm
This website is an awesome resource for info about companies’ policies.  They have profiles of every major company, detailing the labor and sourcing policies for them and their subsidiary companies.

http://www.ethicalshopping.com/
A cool site with lots of info on ethical shopping

http://www.peta.org/living/beauty-and-personal-care/caring-consumer.aspx
PETA’s list of companies that do and do not test on animals.  (I would like to state that the woman who runs PETA is a fucking lunatic.  In her will, she states that when she dies, she wants to be made into a human barbeque.  But first, she wants her skin made into leather, her feet into umbrella stands, and other body parts sent to countries and organizations they protested.  Fucking fruit loop.)

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