Can Ethical Consumption Exist Under Capitalism?

While the phrase has been around for several years, “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” is becoming a common statement used by people on social media today.

There’s a few ways that it can be interpreted, and each perception influences a very different system of beliefs.

The statement opens up several conversations about ethical manufacturing, capitalism, and sustainability so I definitely think its worth evaluating.

Is There Truth To This Statement?

The first time I saw this phrase used was in a video on social media of someone trying on clothes from a popular brand known for producing fast fashion and being accused of unfair labor practices.

While there were many comments telling people not to shop from there, others were quick to defend the user by stating, “there is no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism”. Essentially saying that it doesn’t matter where you shop from because both fast fashion and sustainable fashion are unethical, being that they function under capitalism.

Even though it is true that capitalism almost always involves the exploitation of workers, not all manufacturing processes are created equal.

There’s a difference between low wage thrift shop employees and outsourced workers that are subjected to horrible conditions which can result in severe injuries or even death.

How Should It Be Interpreted?

Like I mentioned before, many people have begun using the statement as a way to justify supporting unethical brands. While it is helpful in reducing consumer guilt, we should not ignore companies that disregard the safety of their employees or the environment.

The opposite interpretation can also be harmful. Blaming people who do not have access to sustainable brands because of their socioeconomic status is not helpful, as we should all be working towards making eco-friendly options available to everyone.

In the end, its important to consider how everyone is affected by consumption under capitalism. Although we should be encouraging each other to support ethical businesses, we also have to acknowledge that not everyone has the means to purchase sustainably made goods.

If you want to avoid unethical companies, check out my article on the best places to shop second-hand. Thanks for reading, have a lovely day.


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