The Ethics of Where You Spend Your Money

by - Friday, July 27, 2012

  There has been a ton of news to come out in the last week that I genuinely have some opinions on, but I am going to start here and see what is still relevant.

I am pretty sure that I don't need to reiterate the recent Chick-fil-A dramas, basically people noticed that President Dan Cathy was giving good chunks of money to anti-gay marriage causes. Then to add insult to injury, he spoke out in support of "traditional marriage" (I have heard the argument that this is somehow not homophobic, but truly I am not convinced. Even a little- much like being "pro-life" it is about shorthanding people who are not like you by taking away their rights, therefore maintaining your own privilege. It is also, for lack of a better word, ignorant). Though I could not disagree more with Cathy's politics, I think something good happened here, and I wish it happened more. 

By being outspoken about his beliefs, Cathy let the consumer know exactly what they were getting with their chicken. The often ignored truth of late captialism is that every choice we make of what to buy comes with all sorts of ideological baggage. Chick-Fil-A and its president has every right to articulate their opinions and lend monetary support their ideals (also, didn't their politics come up before? I know I gave them up in college for some reason that wasn't just because I don't think their product is particularly good). I as a consumer have the right to give them absolutely none of my money ever and encourage other people to do so. Super conservative consumers have the right to eat as much mediocre chicken as they want in honor of traditional marriage. This is democracy a la capitalism, and truly there is nothing wrong with it.

(At the same time, there is also a way for businesses to respect the politics of all their consumers and not put their money into political causes which will frankly be embarrassing hopefully 10 years from now)

What this reminds us all of, no matter what are politics are, is to put our money into ideologies we can live with. The most effective way to do this is buy local- the more you can look into the face of the person you are buying from, the better chance you have of making truly ethical purchases. Obviously, this isn't a fail proof plan- any crazy pants can still open a stand at a farmer's market, but te odds are a lot better. Yes, sometimes things are cheaper if you buy them from large chain stores or restaurants, but you have to honestly ask yourself how they keep prices low, and a big answer to this is not paying their labor sufficiently or treating them right, which is pretty much the definition of unethical production.  

The other really easy way to edit your consumption is start being more selective in your content- sick of only seeing ridiculous skinny waifs as the ideal of women? Stop buying magazines like Marie Claire, which is especially heinous in its shaming of women who aren't white rich and skinny. Frustrated by the portrayal of race and gender? Stop going to movies where there are only white men as the top 5 leads. Send the message that the movies don't get your attention. 

On the other hand, figuring out where companies put your money after you hand it over can be trickier- but this is what i have found out:

If you don't want to funnel your money into  anti-gay marriage groups (or if you do- it's America! You have a choice!), I wouldn't shop at Salvation Army, Target (they are especially awful, and you can read about their conflicts pretty easily online), Walmart, Exxon, Auto-Zone, Brown-Forman (who makes Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort), Cinemark, Domino's, Walmart, and Urban Outfitters.

If you want to support businesses which are taking a stand for gay marriage, I would shop at (or buy, some of these are products not stores) JC Penney, Oreos, Levi's, Microsoft, Starbucks, EA Games, General Mills, Betty Crocker, and the Home Depot. 

If you want to avoid companies with racist politics, do not shop at Lowe's! 

Another choice you can make is to try to avoid stores that still use sweatshops, because no matter whether you are conservative or liberal, if you are a Christian, you should support companies that treat their employees with dignity and kindness. So these are a few that you might want to avoid-  
Walmart (are you noticing how they are on all of these lists- I truly believe that the Waltons are pure evil. They are not right), TopShop, Nike, Starbucks, Disney. Some companies, like the Gap, dramatically changed their policies in the last five years based on pressure about how they were treating their workers, but I would still be thoughtful and look into the places where you are shopping. 

I mean, this is a lot of information. And the longer you look into it, the more depressing it gets, but it is something you HAVE to do. No matter what your politics are! It's called being a good steward in this world.

You May Also Like


  1. I LOVE this post. I want to share it everywhere. Thank you for articulating my heart!