The Problem with Black Friday

The Problem with Black Friday

I have a huge problem with Black Friday! 

It's not that it's been imported from America. 

It's not that it takes over the airwaves for days on end.

It's not even because many of the deals are not actually deals. 

It's more that in my mind, Black Friday sits at odds to everything that sustainable, eco and ethical living stands for. 

Let’s break it down

All of the build up to Black Friday is to pressurize and encourage us to consume more. To buy more. To act quickly. I can't understand how any of those statements fit in with a low impact lifestyle - unless of course we are acting quickly to combat climate change. 

Flash sales are all designed to make us panic buy. Black Friday is full of them, making it highly unlikely for us to spend the time to carry out necessary checks we may usually take when ensuring that our purchases have a low impact. 

There are important motives behind a purchase for me. What are the ethics of the manufacturer? How are the raw ingredients sourced? Will it cause any impact on wildlife? 

So when I see eye watering reductions that Black Friday throws at us, it really does lead me questioning whether someone or something else is being harmed, taken granted of, or negatively impacted on for you to nab a bargain. 

A true price

I also question the original prices of these products. The heavily discounted sales make it clear that unsustainable profit is being reaped by retailers - what exactly are they giving back to the natural world? Or are they taking from it, polluting it? How are they treating their suppliers and employees? This leads on to even bigger questions… how can we reduce poverty, corruption, and reliance on fossil fuels if we don't support the workers of developing nations? How can we heal the fractures within our own society without paying workers a fair wage and offering the security and benefits of their employers. We didn't struggle to clap for many of these workers throughout the Spring and Summer so I don't think we should forget them so quickly with our consumer habits.

If we truly want a society that exists in harmony with nature, we must understand that this includes leveling up across all nations of the world. We need to move inequality to equality and then right through to justice - ultimately achieving a balance and fairness that will allow us all to begin working towards the most important issues of our time. Climate change is only one of these.

If we don't support other nations to level up through fair business we will face a race to the bottom. Racing to the bottom of workers’ rights and increasing dependence on fossil fuels is ultimately increasing political and ecological instability. 

The three step sustainable test for consumer deals

Whether it's Black Friday or any other heavily discounted consumer event, we recommend you stop and ask these three questions? 

  1. Do I really need this item?
  2. Do I understand the impact of this product?
  3. Does this reduction represent a good deal for everyone or just for me and the retailer?

An example: The reality is that sometimes we all need new jeans, and if we're lucky we may find that the perfect pair (complete with all the right eco credentials) on offer right when we need them. If I didn't get them today they'll most likely still be available tomorrow. In fact I'd guess that if they are that good they will be available for several months to come. 

The social pressures surrounding Black Friday shouldn't push me into purchasing these jeans at the wrong time for me. I don't want to place a black hole in my finances this month, right before Christmas, when paying the full retail price at a later date might bring me much less stress about my finances over what is one of the most financially stressful parts of the year. 

Don't even get me started on price inflation ahead of Black Friday to give the illusion of a deal. 

What I always try and remember is that a fair price backed up by positive customer reviews and the right credentials should lead me into making purchases that are right for me - and ending up with items that last long and leave me with a clean conscience. I've also realised that companies who are transparent about their products and processes upfront are far more likely to support me if I ever have an issue with the item I've purchased. 

So what am I doing this Black Friday?

Our household has decided that we're taking a day of annual leave and enjoying a well-being day together. No shopping and certainly no watching deals. Instead we plan to take a long walk and enjoy some of our favourite films on the sofa. 

Whatever you decide to do we hope you have a great day and do what is right for you long-term. 

This blog was written by Markus Coulson, founder of KiteNest.