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Black Friday: Who Is Really Paying The Price?

23/11/2016 15:28
Sherwin McGehee via Getty Images

So consumed are we by bagging a bargain we have detached ourselves from the reality that someone, somewhere is making and sacrificing their lives for what we own.

I'm not going to lie, I used to love a bargain, bags of bargains in fact, that would inevitably sit at the back of my wardrobe never to be seen again. With no thought or question as to who had made them or where they had come from.

Having backpacked around South America and seeing real poverty, I felt the greed aspect of shopping unethically too much to bear. Men and women working hard long days, trying to make lives for themselves on a tiny wage, just so we could own the latest fashion trend at knockdown prices.

I don't have an issue with shopping and as an owner of an ethical retailer I'm not here to tell you that you shouldn't, because it would be hypercritical of me. But on a human level, I do think it needs to be done responsibly, thinking about how that product was made and who made it, should be a matter of habit.

The 25th November is the epitome of unethical consumerism, Black Friday. It is sadly, fast becoming the norm in the UK, it's a bleak, unsustainable and unethical tradition. It's not necessarily the discount themselves, it's the irresponsible way in which companies convince us as consumers to shop for things we don't really need or want. There is an impact, not just on our environment, but also on a human level. After all, if we're getting the deal of a century and the shops are still hitting their profit margins, who's paying the hefty price?

Black Friday is a psychological minefield, impacting our rational way of thinking, the immediate frenzy companies create, 'buy it now or lose out on the deal of a lifetime'. The fear of missing out far outweighs any logic or responsible thinking about what we need, versus what we want.

The sad truth is that many of these items are made by workers in sweatshops, working in poor conditions for less than half their living wage. A typical Bangladeshi factory worker will receive approximately £25 a month, equating to about half the living wage required to provide their families with shelter, food and education. These workers face hazardous, cramped and unsafe factory conditions and many are forced to work 14-16 hours a day seven days a week. These sacrifices made by the workers and the pressure factory owners face from big business, are key reasons that Black Friday prices can be cut so substantially. (source: War on Want)

We are all too familiar with the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza back in 2013, where 1,135 factory workers were killed in Bangladesh's worst industrial disaster. But it seems like lessons just haven't been learnt, in fact just this month there was another factory blaze this time in Ghaziabad, India with 13 casualties.

It's not just people who suffer, on an environmental level, according to DEFRA 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill each year in the UK, with only 14% being recycled. A recent Barnardo's survey found that the average woman in the UK only wears an item 7 times before throwing it away. These stats when you really stop to think about them, are just unfathomable especially when you consider the toil and environmental damage the fast fashion industry is causing.

Events such as Black Friday are so far removed from the reality, that I feel to be part of it just encourages more businesses to think we're behind them in their quest to squeeze factories even further, cutting corners and exploiting workers.

I'm all for shopping, but it needs to be done ethically and responsibly, as consumers we shouldn't expect someone else to pay the price on our insatiable appetite for cheaper goods.

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