Since commerce on the internet first came into existence, consumers have enjoyed greater competitiveness among retailers and often lower prices. Just about any product or service you could wish to procure is available via the worldwide web these days. However, the obvious upsides of internet shopping also throw up some ethical dilemmas. It is much harder, for example, to ensure that fashion items you might buy online are made by people in good working conditions and who receive a fair amount of pay. Ask yourself whether child labour may be used to make garments or if production practices take their toll on the natural environment when you buy online from an international marketplace. At least you know playing at an online casino is very environmentally friendly because you don’t have to travel to a nearby city in person to have fun. You can also place a wager or two knowing that your enjoyment is definitely not built on child labour. However, buying products online can be fraught with these sorts of problems.
What are the main ethical considerations you ought to weigh up when you buy online compared to a bricks and mortar store?
Fair Trading Practices
Lots of people shop around for an item online and then select the cheapest option. What’s wrong with buying something from one supplier when the self same thing costs more from another seller? Of course, there is nothing to say the the cheapest option is at a lower cost because of the poor trading practices of the seller concerned – it could simply come down to competitiveness. However, some sellers – especially in the field of fashion – are able to sell common items like training shoes, t-shirts and sweatshirts because the people who make these garments are just not paid enough. You’ll often notice that a branded item looks suspiciously cheap when you find it from a less well-known online seller. This can mean that the item is really a fake that has been produced in a sweatshop, sometimes by children rather than adults. Look out for sellers which actively promote their fair trading practices and avoid those which don’t. In terms of price, if something is too good to be true, then it probably isn’t and someone is being exploited. Canadians have plenty of resources available to them where they can look up businesses which operate on a fair trade basis.
Not everywhere in the world complies to the same safety standards that North American and European countries do. If you buy a cheap electrical item from a developing part of the world, for example, then have a good look at the product’s safety compliance declaration. If you buy something directly from an overseas seller which is not compliant, then it may never reach you if the authorities work out what it is when it enters the country. Those that do could be dangerous and even lead to claims being made against you if you use such an item around the public.
Not all goods are made in a way that safeguards the environment. Some items, like clothes and textiles, are made in a way that uses up huge amounts of water resource – a big problem in hot parts of the world where many of these items are manufactured. There again, some products will also make extensive use of palm oil, often a crop that is grown in former rainforest areas. By simply buying online, you may be helping to make the world’s environment worse because of the production practices that go on behind the scenes. Of course, environmental protection is now a big issue among many retailers so it can often be better to buy in a store if you are worried about the ethics behind trade and global ecology.
When you buy online, there is a lot of packaging that comes with your items. Okay, much of it can be recycled but this often means a large amount of energy is required to put it to a new purpose. On the other hand, when you shop in a real store, you don’t need half the amount of packaging, if any. What’s more shopping at mall means you can purchase several items in one go with just one trip in your car. If you buy half a dozen items online from different sellers, then you can expect multiple deliveries which all come with a carbon footprint of their own in terms of the fuel used as well as the single-use packaging that has been deployed. Although convenient, online shopping comes with a tremendous amount of waste.