What’s an Ethical Product? 3 Factors to Consider While You’re Shopping

This month I have a guest blog post for you all from Rosie Greaves, a regular ethical.net contributor. ethical.net is a social enterprise building an online platform for discovering ethical brands and products.

If you’re unfamiliar with ‘ethical’ shopping, the task can seem nigh-on impossible. As with anything, knowledge is power. Once you know what to look for, ethical shopping becomes far easier.  

Small changes can make a big difference. If every consumer committed themselves to shop in a way that either helps the environment, looks after the people involved in the supply chain, or cared about animal welfare, we’d live in a much better world.

Does that sound good? Great – we have three tips to help you do precisely that. Let’s dive in!

1. The Treatment of Animals

You may not immediately think about animal welfare when you shop. Yet, every year millions of animals are killed in the name of fashion. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, then PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has compiled a list of animals used to make clothes. Use this info to find out which brands sell these garments, so you know who to avoid purchasing from in future.

2. What Do Your Brands Believe in?

If you want to feel good about what you’ve just bought, you need to think about shopping for things that do less harm to our people and planet.

So, while you’re researching, take a look and see which charities or projects companies support. For example, if you’re thinking of using a new search engine, Ecosia donates more than 80% of its excess income to nonprofits that focus on reforestation.

What about your favorite clothing brand? Try a simple online search to ensure there’s nothing questionable out there. Take the sacking of American Apparel’s CEO for example. Or when Pepsi ran and quickly took down an ad in which Kendall Jenner brokered “peace” between cops and protestors carrying a can of soda. The general opinion is that consumers don’t really like it when big brands take a political stance.

So, next time you reach for your keyboard or head to the mall, take a look at the Fashion Transparency Index and find out where your favorite brands sit before spending your hard earned dollars. Or, check out the Good On You ethical branding rating site. This is an excellent source of info for ethical shopping around the world as it provides a rundown brand by brand.

3. Steer Clear of The Following Fabrics

Not everyone knows this, but polyester is created by using oil. Put simply; it’s effectively plastic thread. These kinds of synthetic materials release toxins that pollute the waters where the fish we’re eating live – gross right?!

That doesn’t mean you have to boycott polyester all together. Instead, we encourage consumers to look for polyester created using recycled:

  • Water bottles
  • Fishing nets
  • Carpet

Or, anything else recyclable. If we want to protect our plant, it’s essential to support the recycling industry. This is a surefire way of avoiding harmful plastics being thrown into our seas and landfill sites.  

The same is true of acrylic – but it’s even worse than polyester. To produce this material, you have to use one of two processes; viscose rayon or bamboo rayon. However, they’re both incredibly toxic and contribute to the rapid acceleration of deforestation.  

Then there’s also the production of synthetic cotton. This heavily relies on the use of toxic pesticides, which is one of the leading causes of insect population reduction across the globe.

So, your best bet is sticking to organically sourced cotton. If you’re unsure what kind of material a garment is made from, contact the brand you’re thinking of purchasing from and ask how they harvest and produce their cotton. Simple right?

Final Thoughts

We hope these three tips have been helpful. These are just the tip of the iceberg of things you can do to shop more ethically. If you’re interested in the subject, we encourage you to continue researching other ways to make more sustainable purchases.

One last tip: If you’re able to, always try and shop second hand. There are plenty of top-quality charity shops and second-hand stores where you find some great bargains. This is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.

Do you have any other tips for how our readers can source ethical products? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments box below. Let’s kick off the discussion!

Don’t forget that you can check out ethical.net’s ethical living tools and resources page, or start a conversation on their forum!  



  1. Heck, ‘bamboo rayon’ sounds like its good and natural, and one would think that cotton is a good choice, but it’s evidently not that straightforward! It is tricky trying to do “the right thing” and helpful pointers like this are great in making our choices less bewildering. Thank you Rosie and Helen.

    Liked by 1 person

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