Supporting unethical brands in their ethical endeavours

Unless you’ve been living under a rock/avoiding those Lad Bible style pages on Facebook (I can’t blame you if it’s the later), then you’ve probably heard that McDonald’s are currently trialing a vegan burger. Obviously, when news broke the internet absolutely lost its shit. Because if there’s one thing that online folk like to do, it’s tell others why they should eat in the same way that they do. Ignoring the people in the comment section shouting “BUT BACON THOUGH!!!”, opinions of vegans themselves were pretty split. Half were rejoicing that their post-clubbing cravings were finally being catered to. Others swore that they would never support “McDeath”. And to be honest, I can understand both stand points.

I feel like this little vegan burger and its not so little response is a pretty perfect example of a question that I’ve been asking myself a lot recently: What do I do when an unethical brand brings out an ethical product? Buy it or boycott?

This is something that has become particularly important in my life in regards to buying clothes. As a lot of you will know, I made the decision to stop buying on the high street over 6 months ago now. After watching The True Cost on Netflix, I couldn’t stomach the idea of supporting brands that systematically harm women, children and anybody with less privilege than those of us in the West buying a new pair of mules every season. So, I quit (pretty much) cold turkey. Until recently I’d only looked around high street shops briefly in order to avoid temptation. However, a trip into town over the weekend reminded me that H&M have a sustainable line called “conscious”. According to them, it’s part of a drive to “create a truly sustainable fashion industry that is good for people, communities and the planet.” Basically then, this line supposedly ticks all of my ethical boxes. It would mean I could buy relatively inexpensive clothes. And I could try them on in-store. And I could still sleep at night. Honestly, I would have loved to picked it up, shouted “hooray” and got my booty right on over to the till.

I didn’t buy anything.

As a consumer, I know that my voice is basically translated into where I spend my money. Which is why this line of clothes is such a catch-22 situation for me. On the one hand, I want to support ethical endeavours. I want to hand over my money as a way of saying “Please, please do more of this!” I want to show that there’s a market for clothes not produced in sweat shops. Otherwise, I’m worried that brands like H&M and ASOS that have sustainable lines will stop trying. However, I also don’t like the idea of funding corrupt practices in any way. Even if I were to buy an ethical item from them, I would still be giving my money to a company that makes most of their profit from selling the opposite. And if we’re being honest, do H&M really care about sustainability and the health of their workers in Bangladesh? Probably not. If they did then their ethics would extend far beyond one rail of clothes. I guess they just got in there early and recognised the growing demand for ethically produced clothing.

I suppose the answer of whether to buy from lines like this isn’t very clear cut. Some people may think it’s more important to support these projects in the hopes that ethical fashion will become mainstream, others probably can’t fathom giving them any money after some of the atrocities they’ve committed. And me? I’m still very much figuring it out. I don’t have a conclusion of my own. These are just my Monday thoughts that I felt like I needed to get down on paper. For now, I think I’ll stick to charity shopping and buying from ethical brands to avoid the moral dilemma every time I need a new pair of socks.

Fellow ethical hunnies, what do you think? 



  1. marblmoon
    October 17, 2017 / 10:57 am

    I think it really is a catch 22 situation. Is H&M only doing this to appeal to the masses and clear their conscience for a bit? Or are they really trying to change? I agree with you that if the rest of their clothes aren't ethically sourced then the money is just getting thrown into the same, whirring, fast fashion machine. However I do think a little bit of applause should go to them for trying to change, because if it isn't acknowledged, then they'll go straight back to their old ways, that's how business works. As a vegan and hearing about this McDonalds thing I think it's about the situation you're in at the time, if you're starving and there's no other choice of food I think it is perfectly reasonable to purchase the burger. I think in order to fight this fight, you still have to put your well being first. However with clothes; as you say, there's always a charity shop. Great post Beth!

  2. Hannah
    October 19, 2017 / 8:21 am

    I definitely feel your pain! I'm torn because when it comes to cruelty free and parent companies (which is a sort-of related predicament) I am happy to buy from the cruelty free brands owned by parent companies to demonstrate support for that brand. Similarly, I am happy to buy my vegan products from supermarkets that also profit from meat and dairy and have questionable ethics, to try and show the demand for these products. But then… with supermarkets, we've got to eat, and even if you exclude makeup there are lots of cosmetics that could be deemed 'necessary' in this day and age even if we're just talking toothpaste. Whereas fast fashion is still fast fashion, sustainable or not. I'd take every situation and analyse it separately because there's not necessarily a blanket rule here. For example, there's a strong argument to buy ethical clothing brand new when it comes to things like underwear, or if you have a specific garment in mind that a charity shop can never guarantee. There's still eBay and Depop for that sort of thing, of course. But feeling good about who you're buying it from overall is the main thing in my opinion – going back to the McDonalds burger, J's former bandmates always raved that their chips were vegan but when you're talking about the sheer environmental and ethical impact of this brand and what they make their huge profits from (clue: not vegan burgers) I wouldn't buy so much as a bottle of water in there. This is really just a rambling, apologies, it's all a bloody minefield… reread your post about how no one is the perfect consumer and make a decision from there!

  3. Tyler Chanel
    October 24, 2017 / 6:27 am

    I just had a conversation with one of my friends about this issue. It is nice to see popular companies making a push to become more ethical, but it is difficult to tell if these are genuine efforts or just marketing gimmicks. I personally stay away from those stores, simply because there are companies out there that are completely committed to supporting ethical causes who are transparent about their efforts.Side note: If you haven't seen the documentary, River Blue, you should watch it sometime. It is similar to The True Cost, but it exposes the environmental harm caused by fast-fashion.Tyler Chanel //

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