Our chance to vote on which type of society we want only comes around every few years, and as powerful as the government is, I think there is an even more powerful tool most of us ignore, which calls on us to vote virtually every single day. Every time I pull out my wallet and pay for something, I am making a choice about the world I want to live in. I am voting. I can vote for clean or polluting energy, for chickens to live in cages or roam free, for fair trade or slave labour, for plastic pollution or reusable solutions.
If you think your vote is too small to count, I have some thoughts to help change your mind. Firstly, the impact of your purchase is much more powerful than you think, even on seemingly small items.
For example, the simple action of purchasing clothing from sustainable and ethical brands, over those that contribute to the pollution and warming of our world, would allow sustainable products to gain market share, therefore increasing investment into ending poverty, inequality, pollution, and climate change.
Not only will this reward companies whom actually improve our world, but it will also force global companies, such as Fashion Nova and White Fox Boutique, to alter their product to be more environmentally friendly with the incentive to gain profit. The only way a multinational will listen to us mere mortals is through a loss of profit. In reality we, as consumers, hold more power than we may believe.
It is also important to differentiate between products that are actually environmentally friendly, and companies whom are ‘green washing’ their products, which is the practise of making a misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product. How many times have you found yourself standing, perplexed, in the beauty aisle of your local grocery store with a glazed over, deer-in-headlights stare unsure of which shampoo you should buy? And how about the cleaning section? Yeah, too many times to count.
After all, with fancy labels featuring words like all–natural, organic, non-toxic, chemical–free, and eco–friendly, they all sound like suitable pollutant-fighting earth-saving, options, right? Wrong. An example of this, courtesy of Palmolive, the statement ‘with extracts of 100% natural origin’ is incredibly redundant because olive extract always comes from olives – which is the natural origin they are referring to, and the product is full of petrochemicals, which are extremely harmful to not only our environment, but also ourselves.
Even in Australia’s largest retailer, Woolworths, the balance of power may be decided by a mere 900 people every week. Imagine a political leader being voted in or out on that margin. The campaigners would be crying out, “Each vote counts!” and they would be correct. Don’t underestimate your purchasing power.
Secondly, we all have a much larger dollar amount to vote with than we think. Lets focus on your superannuation for just a moment, because this is so often forgotten. A good estimate of the average superannuation amount in Australia is 55,000 dollars. The current population of Australia is 25.4 million people. If just 15,000 people, which is 0.6% of the population, change their superannuation fund to an ethical fund, we would be redirecting approximately 825 million dollars towards ethical and sustainable choices. Now that is some serious voting power.
From where we buy our milk to where we invest our superannuation, we are shaping our society. The companies that provide us with those choices respond to the market just like political parties respond to the polls. Considering there are companies that have an annual revenue larger than the Australian government’s, let’s not be blind to the power of the market to effect real change. Our job as conscious consumers is to support those companies that are working to build a better society. What did you vote for today?
- Emma Carr | Founder, CEO & Marketing Director at Emma Kristina