In 2015 the United Nations set out The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The aim of this is to further the peace and prosperity of the planet. When examining Black Friday with this agenda in mind, it is clear to see that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. Black Friday is in direct conflict with at least three of the seventeen goals for sustainable development, and no matter how much we might love the satisfaction of a Black Friday haul, we need to acknowledge the ethical consequences of our shopping sprees.
12: Responsible Consumption and Production / 13. Climate Action
The amount of pollution created on Black Friday is astronomical. Firstly there is the pollution which comes from the delivery of Black Friday purchases. For example an estimated 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions were released in 2020. Adding to this is the pollution from the disposal of the clothes purchased. Most go straight into landfill with no more than a couple of wears thanks to fast fashion. Then there is the pollution which comes from the plastic bags which the clothes come in. Some realters have made a move to more sustainable packaging (thank you Monki), but the majority fall short. It begs the question, do we really need a plastic bag around every single item of clothing?
Black Friday holds a microscope to the problems we face year round within the fast fashion industry. Overconsumption is rampant, landfills are overflowing. Our shopping habits need to change before it is too late.
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
When looking at the more extreme discounts on Black Friday, it highlights how little the garments cost at a baseline. If these garments cost so little to produce, it suggests that someone, somewhere is not getting paid a fair wage. Companies should be questioned on how they are achieving these prices and what the state of their working environments are.
A glaring example of this is SHEIN. They use small workshops, aka sweatshops, to produce cheaper garments. There is a blatant disregard for the happiness and health of the workers they contract, but despite this their profits continue to grow. SHEIN even failed to make their public disclosure on their working conditions in 2021, which is required by UK law. This sinister fact alone is enough evidence that they are failing to provide decent work to their employees. Black Friday is just another ploy for more profit for CEO’s and an insult to the work of their employees, who pay the price with their health and wellbeing.
Brands like SHEIN hugely contribute towards landfill, the cheapness of their clothing means that buyers have no problem wearing something once and chucking it the next day. Black Friday purchases are often met with buyers remorse in the following weeks, which makes its way to landfill, which is then met by another spending spree, which (and I'm sure you know what's coming) also inevitably makes its way to landfill.
To make Black Friday more ethical, there needs to be a shift in focus. An excellent example of Black Friday done right is Lucy&Yak’s campaign. For Black Friday 10% of all their sales went to the Fior Di Loto charity. Their purpose is to educate young girls in India. From £220, Fior Di Loto can educate and provide transport and amenities for one girl for a year. What an incredible gift. This spin and was successful in boosting their revenue whilst also making positive change.
Focusing on charity is an excellent move towards a more sustainable shopping event. If more companies follow suit, there is no doubt that they could further Sustainable Development in all 17 of the goals. This needs to be coupled with more focus on sustainable packaging. Just imagine how much waste could be avoided if recyclable packaging was used regularly.
We should be thoughtful when we sit down to get started on our Black Friday shop. What do we really need? What will we wear again and again? Should I support this brand if their practices are unethical? Stopping to ask these questions is just the start in working towards an entirely ethical fashion future in which we fully support SDG's.