I supported a small, independent artist/ business but I got my sticker shipped from abroad, is this ethical?

Answers

Ooo this is an interesting one.

It’s got me really thinking about ethics and how we define them. If we go by the book (well, by the ethical trading initiative which sums it up quite nicely!), then ‘good ethics’ is about protecting workers rights throughout the supply chain, and the “behaviour of the buying company”.

Doing some research into the maker ‘Natelle draws stuff’, Natelle states how she “designs all products, answer customer emails, pack, and ship orders”. This transparency and chain of production would suggest good ethics- her rights appear to be protected, and she seems immensely happy with her business!

However, I couldn’t really find any information on the production component to the supply chain- where are the materials used for your vinyl stickers from? The vinyl roll for printing, all the components involved in the printing machine, the computer numerical controlling, the ink. To be completely ethical involves looking after all workers in the supply chain- I’m not sure whether this is the case. That said though, Natelle’s fantastic local aspect and reduced worker involvement in her independent business does seem to have a more gleaming ethical picture than lots of big named companies!

Now- does this ethics continue despite air miles? Well, that’s a big question. If we extend the supply chain to your doorstep, we then add the ethics of the postal system (US & UK), of cargo/passenger airmiles, of flight providers and external businesses etc. The ethics involved in the purchase become more murky as the ethics of these groups become stuck to your sticker. The distance may change the environmental impacts of the purchase (from something local, to something with a much greater carbon footprint- you can work out rough air carbon footprint here- http://calculator.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx?lang=en-GB&tab=3).

The concept of shipping alone makes the purchase more un-environmental than un-ethical. But what does put pressure on the ethics is the range of new actors involved in bringing the product from a pretty transparent business, to your front door. To do so involves new ethics- like delivery drivers, postal systems, air traffic workers and so on- which make the ethics trickier to measure. Extra fingerprints are added to the sticker, and rather than a pathway from production to consumption, it becomes a more tangled net with so many players and influence.

This certainly isn’t unique to your sticker though- entangled ethics is pretty much the situation for every commodity we own and rely on. And it’s nothing to beat yourself up about- it's certainly uncomfortable and it makes me question and doubt so many of my own decisions and purchases- ethics is something difficult, and something we can't ever forget or unsee. But being aware is often the most useful, precious and undervalued thing. By thinking about it and asking this question, you’ve really opened my mind to the way that I see and connect things, so thank-you!

by MoCCconsultantGabrielle on August 27th at 2:05pm
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