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Why is doing the right thing so hard?

Mama O used to say, 'If it was so easy to do, more people would be doing it." I think she was reminding me that there will be big ideas that come to mind, but make sure you aren't trying to take the easy route or it won't pan out. That's how running a business it. You wake up with the daily mantra, "If it were easy..."

When I talk about my business and sustainability, I can be long winded. I am technically trained in a world that creates waste, toxins and greed (caveat: and gloriously beautiful garments) and there is not a single day that goes by where I don't tell myself - we don't need more, we need less.

It's painfully true that ignorance is bliss.

If you somehow had enough down time to read my 'About Alison' bio/essay you have some idea of my upbringing. We didn't have Garbology 101 to turn to, we had a jingle; "Recycle, Reduce, Reuse" and my Park Ranger Daddy-O who stopped at every crosswalk to pick up dirty, sticky, slobbered-on litter. More people should be like that, but more people should also stop with the littering. But the point is, I had a physical manifestation of what conservation looked like my whole childhood, not just a jingle.

So flash forward to the climate of today. There is talk of revamping the EPA with some supporters blaming small businesses, denying climate change, and withdrawing freedom of choice for transgendered members of our society.

We are in need of a humanity jingle right about now. 

Here is where you come in, the almighty "consumer." Although the euphemism now is "shopper" or "buyer" because consuming sounds like a little Cookie Monster of clothes or material goodies. Which we kind of are sometimes, right? But here is the kicker. You are going to your favorite stores and buying from them because they have amazing deals, top notch customer service, gorgeous models, and they even smell dreamy as heck when you walk inside.

But there is a really big assumption happening when you get into the buying zone: that everyone is already doing the right thing.

So let's take a guess at what doing the right thing would be in most buyers minds:

  • Fair Wages: The people who made this product got paid fairly to make it for me. Or the brand negotiated fairly with the contractor for this item.
  • Safely Made: The people were not forced to make this product for me, they wanted to be employed and are working age.
  • Non Toxic: This product was made with products that don't cause harm to the workers, the environment or myself after I take it home.
  • Quality Materials: If I am paying good money for this item, the brand most likely didn't pillage a rainforest to make it for me, that would be irresponsible.

I know I didn't capture the whole slurry of concerns that you would be fair to say were "'covered" by the brands you love, but thats the thing, they aren't doing it, because you aren't asking for it. How is that for catch 22, cart before the horse, chicken before the egg? They are waiting for you to ask them to do the right thing. And then they'll start doing the right thing. Now I know that is not what our mamas taught us.

Unless the brand is being transparent about their business, you can't be sure they are doing the right thing. It costs a lot too. I once asked a big company to consider making a large fleece program in organic because it would literally be pennies to convert per style. They said there was no way they would choose organic or Fair Trade because it was a "price point" collection. The "story" wasn't about how it was made, they just needed it to be cheap. Would you be willing to pay $1, $5 more at retail to ensure the brand was doing the right thing? Would you rather a brand pay thousands for a model for a photoshoot or pay their workers a living wage? Or, I don't know, create financial plans that use an environmental profit and loss goal like the French luxury design house, Kering? 

Ok, I know that is a lot to put on you, but I ask because you are smart, thoughtful, pragmatic people who enjoy the art of style - whether its what you wear, how you've crafted your home, how you wrap a gift or how you arrange your kids bedroom. You know what you like and you care about how people are treated even if they live thousands of miles away. So, from here, I don't want to hole you into a certain brand, I want to encourage you to transform other brands out there who just need a little push in the right direction. If we have thousands of shoppers marching to the same tune, then doing the right thing isn't so hard after all. 


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