My journey to a sustainable lifestyle is, in part, politically motivated. Many policy decisions in the United States are determined by the interests a small number of wealthy individuals. Many of the wealthiest people in America are profiting off massive business enterprises like Walmart, Zara, and Nestle. Big businesses impact politics by endorsing candidates who make political decisions which benefit them. Endorsing a political candidate usually involves donating money to their campaign, which helps the candidate get elected but also leaves them indebted to the corporations that got them there. Essentially, politicians frequently pass laws that help big businesses increase their bottom line as a reward for their campaign contributions. Big business has proven time and time again that its main goal is to push a profit at the expense of low-level workers and the global environment.
So, what can we do to stop these big businesses and unethical politicians from lining the pockets of CEO’s, taking advantage of employees, and wreaking havoc on local and global environments?
We have to hit them where it hurts: their bottom line. If we refuse to buy their products until they treat their employees and our environment with respect, changes will come. If not, their shareholders will suffer and demand new policies. As always, the catalyst for change is us.
Step 1 – Be vocal and unapologetic about your intent to support sustainable and ethical companies.
Write letters and emails to politicians and corporations privately, and post publicly on social media to help increase awareness and drum up support. Speak out on the social media pages of these businesses so that other consumers can understand the problem and hopefully join the cause. We need to normalize and prioritize sustainability as a society. Right now there are small groups of people who care and have been speaking out the past few years, raising interest and support for positive change. The more we talk about these things, the less “niche” it will become. By normalizing conversations about responsible business practices, we can convince more people to care about saving the environment, consuming less, and how and where our goods are produced.
Step 2 – Instead of purchasing products from businesses who don’t employ ethical practices, support smaller businesses that care for the environment and their employees.
It doesn’t take as many people as you may think to get a company to notice a shift in consumer priorities. If 100,000 customers stopped buying mass-produced, low quality clothing from Zara in favor of smaller, sustainable clothing stores like Patagonia, the lost income would be apparent. Shareholders will notice the difference in their financial statements and they will demand changes so that they can gain back market share, or they will watch profits dwindle until the company goes out of business, making way for new, ethical companies.
This plan only works when consumers come together en masse and refuse to support companies with low ethical standards. Additionally, ethical businesses will have more revenue to financially back politician candidates with similar views. These companies already care about more than just their profitability. Just like us, many ethical CEO’s are looking for ways to give back to environment and their employees. They just need our business to fund their initiatives and help put like-minded politicians in office.
Step 3 – Vote at the polls every chance you have! This may seem obvious, but it is essential to support sustainable business practices by taking your opinion to the polls.
Vote for politicians who have not been bought by unethical corporations. Local elections are especially important, as these candidates are more likely to be able to operate independently of large business interests. Regardless of the size of the election, however, your vote will always send a message. Make sure that you show your support for candidates that seek to reign in irresponsible companies, even if they’re unlikely to win the race. Change is often slow and discouraging, but if all of us put these 3 behaviors into practice, we can effectively change our own nation and save the world from a profit-driven death.
Absolutely every purchase we make is a political statement. Sometimes we can feel helpless, unable to make changes on a national or global level. It benefits us to realize that within our capitalist society, we, the consumers, really do hold the power. We choose every day what items we purchase from whom, and big businesses cannot succeed if the people at the bottom don’t purchase their products.
It takes a bit more effort to make multiple stops at small, sustainable businesses instead of buying everything at Walmart, and often sustainable and ethically-made goods do have a higher price points, but all of this is subject to change as the demand for them becomes more mainstream. The price of these new products will go down as the demand goes up, and convenience will improve with time.
Stop and think before every purchase, and see if you can find the same product from a supplier who will use your money to create real, meaningful change in the world. The power is in our hands. If we expect the world to change for the better, we have to consume responsibly and consciously.