Opinion: Why it’s so Hard to Find an Ethical Company

CBC's Marketplace uncovered what really happens to returned items to Amazon. Photo via The Guardian.

Large, money-hungry corporations are known for their neverending lists of controversies. Whether it’s allegations of exploitation, unethical production methods, or social issues within the workplace, these companies never miss.

Amazon, for example, is the world’s most successful company. With extremely fast shipping, and millions of items available for purchase, and Amazon Prime Video, they’re raking in around $638 million a day. 

Despite its obvious convenience, it’s a terrible company. Founded by CEO Jeff Bezos (the richest man in the world), Amazon is a selfish brand that cares only about making the most money. 

Amazon and Bezos are known for allegations of exploiting workers, and paying them far less than a living wage. 

Hillary Hoffower of The Business Insider revealed the shocking statistics of how unethical this company really is. According to Hoffower’s research, Bezos’ hourly salary is sitting at $8,961,187, which is 315 times more than the average Amazon employee’s annual income. To put this in perspective, his workers would need to work 24 hours a day for 68 years straight just to make what Bezos does in an hour.

On top of his mistreatment of employees, Amazon has also been exposed for its misuse of child labour.

Under Chinese Labour Laws, ‘interns’ – who are actually school children aged 16-18 – are not allowed to work any overtime or night shifts. These laws were breached and documents were released proving that these children were working to produce Amazon Echos during illegal time slots. 

Children affected by this spoke up, concluding that despite Amazon’s attempt to declare this as a corporate mistake, supervisors were very aware of what they were doing.

With people buying into the convenience of Amazon’s accessible features, millions of orders are being placed daily. Some of these include defaults, or items that will soon be returned. 

Journalists working for CBC’s Marketplace went undercover in an attempt to discover where returns truly end up. Amazon’s misleading return service insinuates that returns are sent to a reseller to prevent waste. What these journalists learned is far from that.

They uncovered that a Toronto e-waste recycling facility “can’t handle” the abundance of Amazon returns. According to Marketplace, an operations manager revealed that they shred up to five truckloads full of waste a week, which ends up in landfills. 

It’s understandably hard for large corporations to adhere to current climate and environmental demands; however, it’s questionable whether some companies even try.

The fast fashion industry is a prime example of this. 

To accommodate the fast-paced business of new upcoming trends that are constantly changing, it’s conceivable that fast fashion companies feel the need to use mass production. Unfortunately, fast fashion isn’t the luxury that it’s painted to be. With so many popular brands constantly selling trendy clothes catered to their target market, we’re starting to see the environmental impact.

Considering the key word fast fashion, trends are born and die out at an impeccable speed. This equates for a large annual percentage of non purchased or trashed clothing ending up in landfills, further polluting the earth. 

Clothing brands including H&M, SHEIN, and Forever 21 are also known to use synthetic fibers proven to be environmentally harmful. The fabrics are soaked in toxic chemicals before being sent to stores ready to sell to unsuspecting buyers.

Business Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen … that the fast-fashion industry alone contributes to 10% of global carbon emissions. These brands use practices that cause major environmental impacts to the ocean with all of the microplastics being polluted. 

Buying ethically is challenging, though.

In an ideal world, as a society, we would consider our basic moral standards and make the decision to boycott brands that don’t reach those standards and move towards more sustainable, and ethical alternatives. 

This is something not a lot of people have the privilege to do. In most cases sustainable fashion is being sold at outrageous prices so that they can continue ethical production methods, something not everyone can afford. Other fashion alternatives, like second hand shopping, can be more accessible for lower income consumers. 

However, with this in mind we enter a slippery slope of individual morality. Value Village, for example, is known for misleading shoppers into believing they’re a non-profit charitable business, when in reality their annual income is in the billions. 

For people like me who find it difficult to support companies that deceive their consumers and employees, finding a perfect alternative is not as easy as it may seem.

These are such massive issues that make it almost impossible to boycott certain corrupt businesses. You can never really trust the morals of big corporations – especially when your personal values are something you hold close to your heart.

Featured image from The Guardian.