We’re just as guilty as you are. The allure of free, two-day shipping. The instantaneous gratification of crossing a purchase off the to-do list quickly. So many mega companies have made it incredibly easy to purchase products, and gifts in this case, with the click of a button. And while convenient, these types of purchases mostly miss their true potential of being a gift that really does good – as much for the recipient, as for the greater world around us .
Moreover, many of the ways we purchase, do harm. We may be inadvertently supporting low wages or unfair trading practices, for example. Or are purchasing something from another country that could be made locally; increasing greenhouse emissions in transit and missing the possibility of employing neighbors.
Likely, no one is thoughtfully choosing to support negative business practices. But it is just that. The thoughtlessness of an otherwise thoughtful act such as gift giving. As we are reminded again and again, our dollars dictate how companies behave and which companies even exist. So, before you start your next shopping spree, or simply think about purchasing a gift for yourself or a friend, here are some guidelines for how to gift good:
- Business Structure
Patronize social enterprises and small businesses. These companies likely employ your neighbors who then spend their wages back in the community where they work. Small businesses make communities stronger and safer. Consider if the company has a meaningful give back program where they support their community, employees, or clients. This shouldn’t be tokenized or used primarily as marketing. Look for authenticity and alignment in their give back programs.
- Business Owners
We are particularly fond of purchasing from women-founded, women-owned, and women-led businesses as well as minority-founded, minority-owned, and minority-led ones. This is not just because we want to support our communities, it is because these individuals typically have to work so much harder to get to where they are and stay there. There is less capital available for them. They may face gender or racial discrimination in even moving out of the idea phase. And most importantly, when they succeed, these businesses reinvest in their communities and raise the overall wealth.
- Supply Chain
In our globalized economy, it is so important to ask where an item is produced and what went into it. If materials are sourced in other countries, does the company commit to paying fair wages and engaging in fair trade? Could the item be produced locally, and if so, does an opportunity to buy locally exist instead? Importantly, is the business transparent in its supply chain and proud of how it conducts business?
- Environmental Practices
How are they packaging their items? Are they using recyclable materials where possible? If the item itself is damaging to the environment, perhaps made of plastic typically, is there an alternative material option or does the company purchase carbon offsets?
- Behavior on Social Issues
Whether public or private, this is increasingly an area where we are focusing our attention. If our dollars allow the owners to donate to take away rights from the LGBTQ community for example, even if it is the owner’s private funds and not coming from corporate dollars, we do not want our money indirectly going there. Make a point to find out which companies support your values and patronize them.
- Artistic Heritage
We are flabbergasted by the tribal-inspired trend. Instead, look for authentically crafted products that are made from the community directly. Influenced products are often mass manufactured items that steal (yes, you can steal designs) from small, heritage artisans. By purchasing items that are made directly by the community, it maintains and reinforces these skills and ensures that they will continue into another generation.
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