A Beginner's Guide to Ethical Shopping
Guatemalan artisans who work with the socially responsible fair-trade brand Raven + Lily. Photo: Raven + Lily

Guatemalan artisans who work with the socially responsible fair-trade brand Raven + Lily. Photo: Raven + Lily

Ethical shopping, as we've already said, can seem nearly impossible. But though difficult, it can be done with the right tools and information. While you may not be able to check every single box when trying overhaul your buying practices, even doing a little bit better — by avoiding brands that violate your own code of ethics, or by supporting companies that put in the work to make things better for the people in every part of their supply chain — can make a big difference. 

But where to begin? Here, we talked to ethical-labor watchdogs about what matters to them, gathered tips and tricks for how to shop more sustainably in your everyday life, and even picked out a few Project Just-vetted brands to help you get started.

What Does It Actually Mean to Shop Ethically?

In case you missed the memo: Ethical shopping is hard. Production chains are so complicated that major companies often can’t guarantee what conditions their products were made in, and even alternatives like the Salvation Army aren’t always ideal because of their anti-LGBTQ track records. 

That doesn’t mean we should give up hope. A Nielsen report shows an increase in the number of people willing to pay more for products from companies they consider to be socially responsible, with a consumer trend report for 2017 published by NPD forecasting that, “given the highly charged political atmosphere [consumers will be] giving their business to brands and retailers that share their values and shunning those who do not.” These are encouraging steps that show we want to do better, and with reports that brands are embracing transparency, it seems that retailers are starting to listen.