Behind closed doors, some of the world’s biggest and most popular brands and products that we ignorantly use every day are harmful and supportive of unethical practices, despite what clever product labelling may have you believe.
We love seeing how sustainable purchasing has boomed in recent years; from ethical fashion to cruelty-free skincare, it’s clear we care more about how our products are made than ever before. The downside is, the marketing machine is wide open for big, commercial brands to take advantage and cash in. They make claims around products that confuse and mislead customers who have chosen to shop in a more socially conscious way.
Here are 4 things to look out for to ensure you’re shopping as ethically as you can.
1. Animal Testing
Leading beauty and skincare brands continue to subject millions of animals to the cruelty of lab testing for their products. Animals commonly used in testing include mice, bunnies, dogs and cats – global businesses have been created around breeding animals for the primary purpose of lab testing. These living, feeling creatures don’t have a chance, as soon as they are born, they’re headed straight for a short life of pain in laboratories. Gentle, harmless animals are commonly subjected to toxicity and ‘lethal dose’ tests for skin care and beauty ingredients. These horrific tests lead to paralysis, breathing difficulties, convulsions, coma, internal organ failure and death.
Despite the effectiveness of cruelty-free alternatives, major brands choose to continue to test on animals as part of their manufacturing process. It’s important to know that any brand sold to the Chinese market is not cruelty-free; animal testing is mandatory by law in China for foreign cosmetics.
2. Child labour, poor working conditions and wages below the poverty line
When leading brands source their products and ingredients at the lowest price possible, it comes at a staggering humanitarian cost; the exploitation of children and human rights. Developed nations like Australia, America and the UK may have strong labour laws in comparison to less developed countries but that doesn’t mean the products sold in developed nations are free of sweatshop labour. Products such as cosmetics, clothing, toys and shoes are often produced in exploitative working conditions.
Killing 1138 sweatshop workers, the 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh put the global spotlight on the dangerous conditions faced by workers in sweatshops along with wages so low they can’t cover the basic cost of living. Since the collapse, improving conditions for the workers has progressed at a snail pace. Major ‘trusted’ brands continue to show incredibly poor ethical standards; they’re still sourcing products and ingredients made these environments.
The mining of mica, the valuable mineral deposit that gives thousands of popular cosmetic products sparkle and shine has also come into the media spotlight in recent years. Mica is mined by Indian children as young as 5, a dangerous job and exploitative labour practice still involved in the supply chain of many popular beauty brands.
3. Packaging and products that damage the environment
As we know, there is no Planet Earth B. While leading brands may be quick to promote the green formulations of their products, the heavy use of plastic packaging is often overlooked. Single-use convenience products like plastic containers, straws, utensils and food wraps are also headed straight for landfill, or worse, into oceans, taking thousands of years to break down. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest floating mass of plastics, covering 1.6 million square kilometres, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France.
Opting for reusable products is a healthier choice for your body too. Leading brands continue to include BPA, lead and other chemicals that can cause long-term health problems are found in many cheap, throwaway products.
4. Chemicals in skincare and beauty products
Skincare and beauty labels can be extremely sneaky about the synthetic chemicals they use in products labelled ‘natural’. Since the #cleanbeauty movement has boomed, we’ve become increasingly careful about the ingredients in beauty products (awesome!) but many big labels have jumped on the bandwagon, greenwashing their products (not awesome) with misleading marketing.
Greenwashing is when a product has ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ on the label when the truth is only a tiny part of the product may be natural or organic, for example, an essential oil. The rest of the product is loaded with harsh, toxic chemicals so it can be produced as cheaply as possible. The golden rule to avoid greenwashed products? Forget what the label says; read the ingredients listing.
Hone in on the top 5 ingredients, as they usually make up around 80% of the product and look for common harmful ingredients like mineral oil, parabens, synthetic fragrances, sulfates and toluene. Spot these, or other harmful ingredients, and you’ll know the product is rife with greenwashing.
What can you do?
The best way to ensure well-informed choices when it comes to making an ethical, healthy purchase is to do your homework. Buy from trusted retailers whose moral values are in-line with your own. Read ingredients lists and take note of whether materials used are sustainably and ethically sourced. Jump on the company’s website and read the fine print. Contact their customer support team with questions if you’re still not satisfied. Don’t forget, your voice and purchasing power can seriously put the pressure on big brands to change unethical business practices. If you’re unhappy with the manufacturing process going on behind closed doors, send an email to let them know you’ll no longer be buying their product.
Our mission at The Eco Shop is to make buying quality ethical and environmentally friendly products as simple as possible for you. We know that with the right information many people are willing to make easy lifestyle changes to fight in the global war on ethics and waste, and we guarantee that every product in our store has been carefully selected.