Why going ethical can boost your bottom line

With (eco) conscious shopping on the rise, more and more consumers want to know the story behind the product they are buying, including the latest gifts for Christmas.

Consumer expert Natalie O’Rourke says that an increasing number of people want to be ethical consumers. “There’s been a real shift in recent years towards ethical shopping,” she says.

“Everyone wants to feel like they are doing their bit by helping those less fortunate. Temples and Markets [for example] is a great outlet for ethical consumers.”

Judith Treanor is the owner of online store Temples and Markets, which she launched last year after being inspired by the stories of the women she met while traveling around South East Asia.

Her aim is to tempt shoppers away from cheap, disposable items which end up in the landfill and encourage people to buy wonderful, handmade products with a different story behind every item.

“It’s not just the uniqueness of the exquisite jewellery, handcrafted leather bags or home furnishings but it’s the story behind these amazing products that is truly inspiring,” she explains.

“Rany, a Cambodian woman who was outcast from her family and struggling to survive on the streets of Siem Reap was the inspiration behind my website. She began making jewellery from seeds she found growing locally. Now she’s employing seven local women who make this stunning jewellery all by hand.

“It’s a great feeling to know that once you buy one of these beautiful pieces you are truly changing someone’s life and helping women like Rany and their local communities. That’s what being a consumer with a conscience is all about and that’s why I set up my store to ensure people who shop there can see the real difference they are making,” Treanor adds.

She says we are all guilty of buying something on impulse that ends up sitting in the cupboard for months before we throw it away.

“Especially as we approach Christmas and people start to panic about what gifts they need to buy, instead of wasting money on disposable goods, this year maybe shop with your head,” she says.

“Imagine a world where we only bought what we truly needed, and then bought items that had a positive story behind them. Whenever we buy something it has a flow on effect―both in our need to work harder to pay for it, but also for those involved in their manufacture.

“It’s simply no longer acceptable to keep filling our homes with endless amounts of disposable rubbish that ends up in landfill. We need to think about where these goods come from.”

Some of the benefits of conscious shopping include:

•              Ethical shopping can change lives―when you buy a product that is handmade in South East Asia you are truly impacting on the lives of the people behind that product. They are made by small groups of women who are working in their local communities to support themselves.

•              Buying from poorer countries doesn’t have to be cheap rubbish―the handmade jewellery, bags and home furnishings from South East Asia are not just beautiful but they are great quality too.

•              Invest in something unique and wonderful that you can cherish for years―instead of filling your wardrobe with disposable junk, invest in a unique and beautiful piece of clothing or jewellery that you know you will have for years.

•              It can change your life too―we all like to think we are doing the right thing and by shopping ethically you can do that.

By Marion Gerritsen