Amazon’s prices, variety of choice and remarkably speedy deliver can be alluring, but there’s been a lot of evidence over the years that our convenient bargains could be sprinkled with a fair amount of unethical practice.
You only have to Google ‘Amazon unethical’ and find pages and pages of criticism of this industry top-dog, including reports of its poor treatment of its workers, sellers and consumers, anti-competitive practices and its ever-present tax avoidances. Between 2015 and 2018, it was reported that the ambulance service had been called to Amazon’s UK warehouses 600 times, raising further concerns of questionable working conditions and treatment of staff (The Guardian, 2018).
If you’ve become uneasy with Amazon’s morals and want to find some glorious ethical gifts for your loved ones at Christmas, then you’re in the right place. I’ve put together a list, by category, of some of my favourite ethical online retailers.
This list is NOT exhaustive though. Another great way to shop more ethically is to buy from small and local brands. Ask around for recommendations to see what gems you can find. And start your shopping sooner rather than later – small brands can take longer to deliver, especially if items are handmade or bespoke.
Right, let’s get started…
Books & Music
There is nothing quite like browsing through your local independent book or music shop. However, that’s obviously a little trickier this year.
Hive not only provide a wonderful selection of listening, watching and reading materials, but they also support UK bookshops by donating to them a percentage of every sale. Plus, you even get to choose the independent bookshop that Hive donates to. They offer a 10% discount to students, provide free delivery to all UK destinations, and offer very reasonable prices on books, films and music.
Another great ethical option is World of Books, where all the books are second-hand. Environmentally, buying second-hand is always better than buying new, which is what makes this such a great site. They also donate books to good causes, and any books that can’t be sold or donated are recycled.
In recent years, the demand for ethical and eco-friendly health and beauty products has increased significantly and globally, there has been a 175% increase in vegan cosmetic launches in the last five years (Marketing Week, 2019). There are a lot of lovely ethical cosmetic products available at the moment.
Ethical Superstore makes it easy to purchase a whole range of ethical products, including beauty, health and wellbeing. The online store only sells items that are cruelty-free, natural, fair trade and organic, so you can do your Christmas shopping guilt-free. You’ll have peace-of-mind knowing that you’re buying products that are kind to our bodies and the planet and where no-one has been exploited in the production process. With the wide variety of products and prices available, you’ll have the opportunity to get a lot of your Christmas shopping done in one go. When you check out, you’ll also have the chance to donate to charity. It’s certainly worth a browse.
Another great place to find ethical cosmetics online is Naturalist Beauty. They have a great range of ethical and sustainable beauty products, cosmetics, candles and more, including some lovely Christmas gift sets. And to top it all off, for every purchase you make through them, they plant a tree with Treeapp.
Socks, PJ’s & jumpers (and other clothes!)
A few of the classic Christmas gifts here – I mean, who doesn’t love snuggling up on the sofa in the new socks, pyjamas and a woolly jumper?
However, the waters are extremely murky when it comes to the ethics of most high street clothing retailers. This was brought to light in particular by the devastating collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013, which exposed the poor conditions garment workers are subjected to.
This tragedy was what prompted the creation of Know The Origin. The company was started by its founder Charlotte to help create a new, ethical system for producing our clothes. The online store features a wide range of brands, all of them ethical, where you can buy cosies, clothes and other gifts for your loved ones this Christmas, with a clear conscience.
A favourite ethical brand of mine is Thought. It began in 1995 with an initial collection of sustainable men’s clothing. Today, Thought provides wonderful collections of clothing, accessories and gifts for both men and women with thoughtful design and responsible sourcing. They even have a dedicated “Christmas” section on their website with loads of gorgeous gifts like jumpers, earrings and pyjamas. I may have been not-so-subtly waving my laptop under my partner’s nose while checking these out…
We often think of clothing and beauty products as the main culprits of harming the environment and humanity with unethical practices, however, technology has a significant part to play in this too. Approximately 500,000 tonnes of electronic waste is thrown away, stolen or hoarded every year according to Material Focus. Technology can be beneficial to helping the environment, but there are a lot of ethical issues which arise with technology such as tax avoidance, low wages, exploitative material sourcing and toxic waste.
And of course this is exacerbated by tech companies constantly bringing out new versions of products, as well as a culture of planned obsolescence.
This makes refurbished tech a much more ethical way to go. Music Magpie is a reliable place to purchase previously used and refurbished technology at reasonable prices, whilst preventing unnecessary electronic waste from hitting landfill.
Every refurbished technological device sold by Music Magpie goes through rigorous quality checks, testing and an extensive in-house refurbishment process to ensure every item is in tip-top shape, and comes with a 12-month warranty.
For stocking fillers
Waking up on Christmas Day to open your stocking filled with small gifts is one of the most exciting parts of the day. This year, why not get them from small and ethical businesses?
I’m currently obsessed with Koti Boxes – they offer curated boxes of sustainable, eco-friendly products, delivered directly to your door. They’ve even launched a Stocking Filler Box ready for Christmas (pictured above), which includes vegan products such as bamboo socks, hand cream, wax melts and lip balm. Alternatively, you can create your own bespoke box by handpicking the items you’d like to gift a loved one, or buy individual items from the shop section of their website. Check out their website to see their range of eco-friendly treats and gift boxes!
This year will certainly be a Christmas like no other. Our usual tradition of visiting the city centre to weave in and out of crowds to do our Christmas shopping will be swapped for more online options while we are sitting on our sofas. This doesn’t mean that our gifts have to be any less meaningful or thoughtful, and they don’t have to be purchased via Amazon. There are a lot of wonderful ethical alternatives to Amazon for purchasing Christmas Gifts which support small and independent businesses, protect the environment and prevent exploitation.
If you would like to find out more about ethical brands in time for Christmas, Ethical Consumer is a great resource for guiding you in all areas of purchasing ethically.