Shoes His & Hers

The Big Picture: Ethical Consumerism

The recent Target boycott has actually brought to light how much the average Christian doesn’t care about conscious consumption. Apparently, the only thing that will motivate the American Christian masses question their consumer behavior is an alarmist campaign about bathroom safety.

Mark Twain QuoteTarget made these changes to capture market share in the LGBT sensitive community while politicians exploit this opportunity to earn conservative votes. Unfortunately, this drama appealed to some Christians who were just itching to support an easy cause. They just have to avoid doing something, and then, let everyone know (like in Luke 18: 9-14).

However, it’s, at best, an ignorant gesture. This article from the Daily Beast highlights some more off-limit brands, if you really want to boycott LGBT sensitive businesses, including:

  • Facebook, Twitter and Google
  • Sony, Universal, Paramount, Disney, and Warner Bros.
  • Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner
  • General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, and Kroger
  • Apple and Nike
  • Ikea and Home Depot
  • JCPenney, Sears, Nordstrom, and (obv.) Target
  • McDonalds and Coca-Cola
  • Walgreen and CVS
  • All the major airlines and banks
  • Ford, GM, Toyota, Nissan and Volkswagen
  • Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Discover

You can find a list of the 407 businesses that scored “perfect” in a survey to measure LGBT community support and hiring practices here. But, that probably doesn’t matter to the people who now boycott Target; they don’t really care about the link between consumption and social values. They haven’t thought about the links between what they buy and their values (for example, labor conditions at the factories that supply Hobby Lobby).

However, I think Christians should consider and weigh all these issues before declaring themselves ethical consumers. Below is a list of the other factors that should influence mindful consumption.

Environment and Product Sustainability

Christians should consider the cost they are causing for the environment with many of their convenience purchases. How can we say we have respect for God when we have so little care for his creation? The scope is wide, and the areas below should be considered.

  • Environmental Reporting
  • Nuclear Power
  • Climate Change
  • Pollution and Toxics
  • Habitats and Resources
  • Organic
  • Fairtrade
  • Positive Environmental Features

Start small in this area of ethical consumption by inventorying your home. Look for areas of waste and find one to cut. An easy example would be paper towels and napkins. Then, once you’ve moved away from that move on to something else, like food packaging. While many dismiss environmental concerns as part of the liberal agenda, respect for creation is a recurring theme in the scriptures.

People and Animals

Unfortunately, a lot of the stuff you enjoy — from diamonds to  chocolates — are made at the expense of human and animal rights. While you may not feel called to personally champion these issues, you can at least be aware of which products are created through slave and child labor. Also, the Bible sets an expectation of kindness toward animals. Below are the various ethical consumption issues Christians should consider with regard to oppression.

  • Human Rights
  • Worker’s Rights
  • Supply Chain Policy
  • Irresponsible Marketing
  • Armaments
  • Animal Testing
  • Animal Cruelty

Start by just reading labels and looking at tags. Pick one area of your life, like clothing, to start changing your buying practices. With time, you’ll become a more mindful and ethical consumer who cares about the people and animals behind the products.

Local Economy

Although it causes some strain on the pocketbook, Christians should be mindful of their local economy. At the very least, supporting a local business can open the door to evangelism. On a larger scale, supporting the local businesses allows you to be a more ethical consumer because information on the areas above is easier to uncover.

  • Shop Local
  • Made in USA

Consider how you shop and from whom you buy. For those boycotting a particular chain, you are likely already condoning similar policies at another chain. Just looking at the Daily Beast list reveals the hypocrisy of boycotting one big brand while mindlessly shopping at another.

Take Action

Everything they do is done for people to see…” Matthew 23:5

Consider making small changes in each of these areas before you consider yourself an ethical consumer. Also, promoting your change isn’t necessary, just do it because it’s right.

Do you consider yourself an ethical consumer?

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