Friday, 1 August 2014
I expect many, just like myself, walk into the beauty department and nod past brands distinguishing them internally by our familiarity with them, their popularity, price range, how well they work for us etc. But how many of us actually look at these brands and see them for what they are, that is money-guzzling companies who mass produce products and then try to get us to buy them. And as with many such companies, their ethics/politics are worth scrutinizing. 

In this post I want to bring a few issues that I have personally being mulling over recently to attention . There may be things I talk about here that you won't agree with or care much at all about, you may vehemently disagree with and that's totally fine. Please do not hate. But if you wish to get a little deeper understanding of my views and subsequent decision, march on.

1. Illusion of Choice

Source: Mic.Com
This is a visual chart of 10 of the largest companies said to dominate everything we ever buy. The concept around Illusion of Choice is that  a signle company owns several brands of products that appear to us to be competing. We may decide that we do not wish to purchase from perhaps L'oreal any longer due to its political connections and opt for Garnier or Maybelline instead, completely unaware that L'oreal heads both respective companies. We are still unwittingly emptying our pockets into the hands of those we conscientiously wish not to be doing.

It is an odd thought especially when you walk into say, Boots (UK) and see all 3 of these brands stood side by side seeming each of them to be trying to coax you into buying their products over the other, when in reality it doesn't really make much difference which you settle to buy from anyway, aside from perhaps we as consumers will go away content with the many, many choices we [seem to] have in life and the supposed control we feel we have over what and where we buy from. That, my readers, is the Illusion of Choice.

Even if you are not ethically/politically aware, even if you prefer to keep it easy and not to dabble in messy debates, just the thought that there are 10 such groups of people who control your entire life - well, I don't know about you, but it sends a shiver down my spine! 

2. Current Politics: Israel and Israeli Settlement Products

Now, I should process hence forth with caution and speak of this tentatively, I am sure everyone holds a colorful array of views on who is right or wrong. That is not what I am here to debate on today, sorry. 

These product concern me as an individual due to the views that I personally hold, I do not agree with the way Israel is dealing with things nor of their past and sustained behavior of creating illegal settlements and selling the produce off of those lands, depriving and restricting the Palestinian people. As a result I would like to control where I put my money. Frankly I feel buying these products not only takes food and money away from the Palestinians but also pays for the bombs, bullets and fighter jets over their heads. We have as much blood on our hands as those committing these heinous crimes. For me it is a difficult truth. While many out there fret over animal cruelty, do we for one second consider how our choices affect the lives of our fellow human beings?

However with a little research I have come to realize that dodging these alleged companies is far more complex than I originally anticipated. Much like the 'Illusion', Israel owns enormous families of companies all linked together, as you try to dodge one you will surely fall into another's grasp. It also alarmed me to find that brands under Israeli ownership, are the very same that I casually and regularly purchase from, their products now sitting proud and somewhat sinister among my cosmetics collection. It annoys me that I am so little aware of it, and it annoys me that brands with such hideous origins can be displayed quite so innocently on the shelves (a great number of them) of my favorite local stores giving no hint as to its background. 

One such example is Estee Lauder:

Estee Lauder is an incredibly vast company, eye watering-ly so. I can't seem to find a diagram so I will try to illustrate it in words:

Estee Lauder Companies Inc (Buycott App)

1. Bumble and Bumble

2. Prescriptives Inc

3. Estee Lauder Inc
3a. Aveda Corp.
3b. Clinique
3c. M.A.C
3d. Smashbox
3e. Tommy Hilfiger
screenshot of the Buycott app
3f. Aerin
3g. Aramis
3h. Estee Lauder
3i. Jo Malone
3j. La Mer
3k. Origins
3l. Rodan and Fields
3m. Veracruz
3n. Michael Kors

4. Aramis Inc
4a. Lab Series
4b. Parfum
4c. Pure DKNY
4d. Uomo
4e. Zegna


Now tell me, how many of these brands are you aware off? Could you have fathomed that they are all of one family?

And if you think that this is absurd, just take a look at all the fashion and beauty brands owned by Nestle, yes Nestle!

Garnier, L'oreal, Maybelline, Redken, Body Shop, Essie, Giogio Armani, Vichy, Lancome, YSL, Stellar McCartney, Victor & Rolf, Biotherm, Dermablend, La Roche-Posay, Tresor, McVcities and I really shouldn't go into foodstuff or else I would be here all day.

It's beginning to look like an impossibility isn't it.. 

I am absolutely determined to see this through. I am positively sick of unknowingly supporting causes and companies that go against my moral values year upon year. And while I may not be successful in removing them all from my life, I can make positively changes and decisions to reduce the impact.

Mission Statement: So here is what I pledge to do about it

It won't be easy and it will mean making some sacrifices. I love MAC products, Maybelline and Rimmel are my go to-es and Garnier is my everyday. But frankly, these products just are simply not worth it. There is a wealth of vegan or otherwise responsibly sourced products out there just waiting to be discovered, we just need to bother to look for them. We have grown lazy, so very accustomed to being told what to buy by our trusty stores that bring selsct brands under a single roof that we have lost the imagination, the initiative to look for alternatives and to weigh up our choices.

Bring back the Independents:

Small independent stores, small independent companies and brands for that matter are always being pushed to the curb to make way for larger commercialized products. We, the consumers, have a n unhappy tendency to pick the large stores, rendering the locals no chance of competing and are consequently wiped out.

So I say we should take our commerce back to these places and drive the sale of locally sourced, traceable I should add, produces. Bring back the flurry of small, cute, unique shops and brands and allow them to thrive on our high streets. We need to put place our money with more care and consideration.

the Buycott App: a handy database

screenshot of Buycott
screenshot of Buycott
I have been playing around with this gem for a short while and it quickly proves to deliver! The way it works is that you choose join the campaigns that are important to you and whilst out and about shopping, scan bar codes of products. The app flags them up if they go against your campaigns and shows you a list of other conflicts related to the product/company. You can also view the family tree of the related company as I have done for my illustration of Estee Lauder above.

I am also putting together a small list of 'clean' brands for reference which I will put up on my 'Links' page and will continuously add to as I discover more, keep checking back. If you have any suggestions, I would be super grateful if you could let me know down below.

Who cares?

I know a lot of people concerned about certain issues, who shy away from taking small personal actions like boycotting for the simple fact that they believe it will not make a difference. But it is us, the consumers who drive businesses, who drive the economy. As long a we demand, as long as we spend money their way, they keep producing. Frankly we have created these mammoths.

I strongly believe that if we make a conscious, committed effort, if we give our all into it, we can turn this ship around. It is not about one offs, and here-and-there's, it is about changing our attitudes and way of life. I really believe that we can show others that it can be done and they will , eventually, follow suit. 

We can instill positive values into our families and friends and influence the generation after us. Where we now make unconscious choices to shop at commercial stores, I hope in future it will be the same with regards to small independent stores and organic farms etc. I hope that we can create a culture where we question and challenge and refuse to fall in line where it disagrees with us, refuse to be controlled.

It all starts with us really, with these small baby steps. As they say, where there is will, there is always way!

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