I recently went to a conference on body-positivity, and one of the panel discussions focused on the effects of Media on people’s body image. Now we all know, media and advertising has a big role on the way we perceive reality. They have this agenda, which they try to force on us. But are we really so helpless? One thing which stuck to me then, was this statement by one of the panelists: the media isn’t the only one to blame here. We, as consumers are just as powerful (maybe even more) and are therefore also to blame with whatever content reaches us. Remember that they might be selling us something, but whatever it is, it only pervades because they do sell.
The same thing applies in terms of buying into not just ideas like body image, but also literal materials we use everyday, like clothes and beauty products. Look at the clothes or makeup you’re wearing right now. Do you know where it came from? If you don’t, it’s high time you do. Because would you really want to wear or use something which turns out to have been made by poorly-treated workers? These days, it’s not just a about the end-product anymore. We have the capability and responsibility to know the brands we patronize—which, thankfully, is becoming in today’s generation.
According to an article published by Forbes, “Millennials prefer to do business with corporations and brands with pro-social messages, sustainable manufacturing methods and ethical business standards.” In 2015, the Global Corporate Sustainability Report by Nielsen indicated that 66 percent of consumers from around the globe are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand, and 81 percent of millennials expect their favorite companies to make public declarations of their corporate citizenship. Additionally, another report found that 57 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from or boycott a brand based on its stance on a social or political issue.
As an industry, marketing is traditionally self-interested. But we challenge this. Isn’t it possible to pursue profit while at the same time contributing in some level to the betterment of society? As Forbes noted, “Millennials seem to recognize and respond to this in a way that no previous generation has before—and they’re voting with their wallets to make their wishes known.”
So this is all cool, right? We’re progressing, sure. But it’s not enough. And while it’s we true want to be really selective in the brands we champion, it doesn’t mean that ‘want’ easily translates to ‘do’. A more recent report showed that apparently, “Despite young consumers’ apparent focus on ethical companies, many do not entirely practice what they preach. While they may go out of their way to buy products that were not tested on animals, they still drive their environmentally-unfriendly car to and from work every day.” This was revealed through an experiment which demonstrated just how easily an “ethical consumer’s” preference could be influenced. Plus, consumers are also quick to accept brand’s claims of ethical practices at face value and don’t make enough effort to look deeper into the company’s practices. According to a UK survey, “most consumers still rank price and quality higher than ethical concerns, and 49 percent of consumers rated a business’s moral compass as neither important nor unimportant, somewhat unimportant, or not at all important.”
So what can we do? One of course is to be a conscientious buyer. It’s true they will try to sell you something, we’re intelligent enough to just. Don’t just buy things because they’re pretty, and because you can. Support cruelty-free beauty products, local brands. Also, remember that just because a celebrity you look up to endorses a brand or a product, doesn’t necessarily guarantee to the company’s values. To quote The Next Web, “While social consciousness, ethics, and morals do matter, as long as consumer commitment to sustainability remains superficial, so will brands’ endeavors to meet the demand.
Art by Marian Hukom
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