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Black Friday: Savings vs Sustainability

by | Nov 25, 2021 | Ethical Accreditation, Ethical Shopping Blog

As we all know, the season of Black Friday is upon us. Starting this year with Black Friday itself landing on the 26th of November this year, and spanning till the 29th of November’s Cyber Monday, research suggests that the UK alone will spend approximately £9.2 billion this year. With the expectation of extreme savings just in time for the Christmas season, it is easy to understand the holiday’s continuing uptake in popularity, but we urge the public to understand how these savings are possible, and what the impact their purchases have in a global context. To help navigate the complexities of all the issues surrounding Black Friday, we have come up with 3 easy questions to keep in mind before hitting the ‘checkout’ button in your browser: 

  • Do I need it?
  • Will I use it?
  • Is it ethical?

Do I need it? 

Whilst limited-time deals have an undeniable initial allure, they can often lead to us buying things that we do not need, due to the fear of missing out on potential money-saving opportunities. Oftentimes, however, this leads into a frenzy of overconsumption and buying items that we do not need, and would not have considered purchasing outside of the context of a Black Friday special offer. Despite this, purchasing an item that will not serve you, no matter how great the discount applied is, will always cost you more than abstaining from an unnecessary purchase. Research has even noted that many retailers inflate prices in the run-up to Black Friday to create artificial ‘savings’, when in fact only 1% of products tracked were at their lowest price on Black Friday. 


Will I use it? 

Once you’ve established that a purchase has a need, it is important to ask yourself about usage – will I use it? How often? For how long? Forbes has found that return rates spike to 30% on Black Friday, with less than 10% of returns being able to be restocked and sold at a later date. In cases such as these, businesses often have to destroy merchandise that does not meet selling standards and means that whilst the customer gets a refund, the environment will take the brunt of the negative impact. Similarly, many of the items sold will have a limited lifespan even when kept. As our purchases become defunct or lose novelty, many of them will go straight into the bin, to landfill, where the majority of our purchases from the past century have accumulated. To help understand the scale of waste and throwaway culture that we have developed, try to visualise the fact that every toothbrush created from the 1920s onwards still exists today. This is just a singular example of one product, and our demand for plastic has consistently increased with 44% of all plastic ever manufactured having been made since 2000. With the context of the ongoing waste crisis that we have created in mind, we therefore, encourage mindful consumption, where you consider what happens to an item once it is no longer useful and look for sustainable alternatives.


Is it ethical? 

Lastly, the question of ethics remains the most pertinent question of all with Black Friday shopping. With the innumerable discounts being offered at ludicrous amounts, how is it possible for retailers to afford to sell products at such low prices? A recent example includes the UK-based fashion retailer, PrettyLittleThing, having offered a 99% discount in 2020. Many items were sold for less than £1, with clothing being sold for as little as 8p. Whilst many hurried to take advantage of the extreme savings – whose expense were they being offered at? The parent group of PLT is Boohoo Group PLC, who has received criticism for a variety of reasons, including allegations of slavery and unsafe working conditions for employees that are allegedly paid as little as £3.50 an hour. Companies using unethical, cost-cutting measures are able to offer shockingly low discounts to the consumer; whose purchases subsequently fund these unethical practices and perpetuates this cycle of exploitation. 

This year we urge you to take full advantage of your spending power by not supporting such practices. If you are thinking of making a purchase, check the ethics behind the brand you are supporting to ensure you are not contributing to the problem. We offer a variety of resources to help along this journey, including a detailed range of Ethical Rating Tables across 62 different product categories. Alternatively, we have a range of independently researched and Ethically Accredited Award recipients that we certify for their ethical business practices, or explore our list of Ethical Fashion Retailers if you’re unsure of where to start. 


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