Is it ethical to shop online?
Online shopping is a growing trend, which the coronavirus situation has accelerated.
Some people have deep fears about the shift online, while others are excited about it. We look at the ethics of Paypal, eBay, Amazon and more in our background feature on the ethics of online shopping.
It is not online shopping itself that is the problem, but the companies which put profit before the people who create it for them. As well as tackling the abuses by Amazon and others, we have to promote the virtuous players, virtual or not.
Do be aware that there are also scammers online. Advice from the charity Victim Support is to look for a name you know, and make sure you're on their real website. If its seller that's new to you, look for reviews and how long they're been selling online. If they've only just started there is a higher chance it could be a scam. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you're not sure, ask a trusted family member or friend. And if you do decide to buy, a credit card usually offers better protection.
Our three recommendations for ethical online shopping are to:
- Support local shops and suppliers. You may well have a local wholefood shop, veg box supplier, fairtrade or zero waste shop that offers online shopping, even if it didn’t pre-pandemic. Search online if you’re not sure, or check their social media. These small businesses will especially appreciate your custom now, in the struggle to survive. They are also likely to be doing the deliveries themselves, rather than using a dodgy courier. For more about local shops see our blog ‘Covid 19: Lockdown for a local shop’.
- Re-use. Freegle, Freecycle and OLIO are online tools for the free exchange of all sorts of items, to cut waste and reduce landfill. You can keep it local, leave items on your doorstep for contactless pickups, and collect items on foot or by bike while doing daily exercise.
- If you can't go local, stay ethical online. You’ll discover brands and approaches to trade that are rarely available on the high street. Retailers in our guide include a wide range of plastic-free, recycled or upcycled small-batch products, often from fair trade, charitable or social enterprise suppliers.
We’ve found that not all of the companies included have as stringent supply chain policies as you might expect. Nevertheless, the brands listed in this report score very highly compared to other retailers.
Many pick up additional marks under Company Ethos by only selling products made under fair trade conditions, or that are suitable for vegans. In addition, many companies in this report use their profits to fund their charitable activities.
All of the companies in this guide have at least some fair trade products, from food, to clothes, bedding, jewellery and crafts, but Traidcraft, Shared Earth and the Sourced by Oxfam range are particularly focused on fair trade principles.
See our web blogs ‘Covid 19: Why fair trade is more important than ever’, and ‘Covid 19: A Shared Earth supplier story’ for more.