Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Sustainable Production

Posted on Posted in by Austin Schiano

I write on the eve of so-called “Cyber Monday”, making tabs for all the luxury goods my consumerism  and vanity drives me to purchase (an Armani leather jacket on the top of my list).  There are however two key questions I am interested in. First, are more expensive clothes really more sustainable? and Second, if not which brands can I trust to purchase from?

The traditional assumption that clothes that cost more must be better, that brands like  Massimo Dutti, Hugo Boss, Prada, Max Mara,  Dolce & Gabanna,  or Versace (where an item could easily cost you well above $ 2,000 USD), must pay their workers a fair sum, is unfortunately not true. In a 2014 assessment of by The Clean Clothes Campaign  (concerning Eastern Europe and Turkey) the report found that “The take-home wage of garment workers falls far short of a subsistence minimum, let alone a living wage. In all researched countries (expect region, Croatia, and Ukraine), the lowest found take-home net wages do not even reach 30% of an estimated living wage”.

Even the most prestigious label “Made in Italy” is not exempt from such concerns. A separate examination conducted by the Clean Clothes Campaign found concerns of big brands subcontracting to firms employing immigrants (largely Chinese persons) in sub-par conditions,   and poor employment contracts for Italians coupled with a national economic crisis have made it difficult for even skilled workers to barely support families. That being said, ” wages in factories run directly by top brands are generally higher than in those making up the rest of the supply chain.”

Returning to Black Friday and  Cyber Monday, brands have made clear commitments to support ethical choices on major shopping days. Outdoor clothing brand Recreational Equiptment Inc (REI) has created the #optoutside campaign  in partnership with Subaru, skedaddle, and Latino Outdoors. The campaign encourages people to #optoutside  (engage in outdoor activity) on Black Friday and recorded an estimated 6,033,922 persons who shared their story in doing so. Patagonia has pledged to donate  100%  of its considerable profits on Black Friday (estimated at the day for 2 Million) to grassroots environmental causes.

An Article by Forbes magazine on November 26th, 2015 outlined 50 green companies offering deals for the day, and could still serve as a relevant guide for socially conscious consumers.  The Good Trade is a tremendous online site that not only organizes socially responsible brands but provides users with a guideline for ethical purchases in their whole lifestyle  ranging from engagement rings, baby clothing, and shoes along with many other unique facets. American Express has also launched an initiative “Small Business Saturday”, encouraging individuals to shop locally  during the holidays.  Taking this a step further, American Express is rewarding those who “shop small” with an American Express card till 12/31 /16 with double rewards on registered cards.

Happy Shopping!!

By Austin Schiano 10/27/2016