Consumer responsibility / by Nghia Ton


Consumer Responsibilities

Fashion brands and retailers often say that what they do is a response to what ‘the consumer’ demands. ‘They’ service ‘our’ needs and desires for style, price and the latest trends. Because ‘we’ get what ‘we’ demand, ‘we’ are responsible for all that is good, bad and ugly in the fashion industry. So, when we find out that we are benefiting from other people’s exploitation, as ‘consumers’ we are responsible both for that exploitation and for doing something about it.

To this way of thinking, the economy is like a democratic system. When we buy things, we’re voting with our money for the world in which we want to live. So, if we are upset or angry with what we find about the work and lives of the people who make our clothes, we have two choices. One is to boycott the brands and retailers whose clothes they are making, and/or the other is to choose to shop more ethically (i.e. better) and/or sustainably (i.e. less).

Blaming and praising ‘the consumer’ is a game that’s often played by brands, retailers, governments, NGOs and others. We need to question its logic:

  • What kind of consumer ‘democracy’ do we live in when some people have enormous numbers of votes and others have next to none?

  • Is it only ‘the consumer’ whose demands brands and retailers respond to? Who and else influences what they choose to do?

What do you think?