Why Your Purchases Matter + 5 Places To Shop For Goods That Do Good

Ethically produced, sustainable, fair trade, and social impact brands. Too many terms and so little time right? Let me help break it down for you: The products you buy have a story behind them, and sadly, often times that story involves human rights abusesenvironmental harm, and money going towards corporations instead of local communities. Thus, your dollars can be a form of activism and what you buy directly impacts people, most often marginalized people, as well as the environment. Here’s a little round up of what these four terms mean, plus the environmental, social, and economic benefits of buying from these types of brands.

Fair Trade is a title given to a clothing or accessory that is made by a Fair Trade certified group that works to the World Fair Trade Organisations 10 Fair Trade principles. Ultimately, Fair Trade is a term for products created with the goal of empowering marginalised people while paying them a fair wage and ensuring fair working conditions. The environmental effects are standards of key environmental areas such as emission reduction, promotion of environmentally friendly training, pesticide standards, and access to finance which includes producer support in tackling climate change. The social effects are empowering workers to have a voice and control over their future, rights and the power to negotiate, Fairtrade’s support of gender equality, and the investments made by Fairtrade Premium by co-operatives for community development, such as education, health, and housing improvements. The economic effects are the minimum price which helps farmers become income-secure and less vunerable to poverty, empowering communities to be able to negotiate for higher prices, and improved access to sustainable training and premium markets.

Ethical is a broader term that can encompass Fair Trade and sustainable products, but is not always explicit and it has no distinct set of rules, practices or governing body. Ethical consumerism emerged in the early 90’s, out of the broad school of responsible consumption, and is based on a ‘do no harm’ principle. It shares Fair Trade economic and social values, but also includes environmental issues, as well as paying attention to the overall activities of a company. An example of this would be Poème Clothing, a bohemian clothing brand that employs artisans in Bali and gives many social and economic benefits back, such as above average Indonesian industry standard wages, 8:30-4:30 M-F workdays, annual 2 week leave, health insurance for the workers and their family, pension payments, etc.


Social Enterprise is an organization that is directly involved in the sale of goods and services to a market, but that also has specific social objectives that serve as its primary purpose. Profits are principally used to fund social programs. The products aren’t necessarily always sustainable, but they can be. It’s mostly about having a social impact through the purchases. An example of this would be Tom’s shoes, which gives a pair of shoes to those in need for every pair you buy.

Sustainable is a term given to a product that is often made to environmentally-friendly standards and provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal. Some people will group Fair Trade under sustainable as the production has economic and social benefits and is considered ‘sustainable’ to communities of farmers and artisans in providing livelihoods and investing in eco-projects. An example of this would be HOPE Made In The World, a company that uses sustainable materials and given that they are fair trade certified and also employ indigenous communities with good working conditions, they can label themselves as all four- sustainable, ethical, fairtrade, and a social enterprise.

HOPE Made In The World

HOPE Made In The World


It’s simple- less consumption is always better and not everyone can afford to buy from these types of brands (though affordability is getting better), but if you are going to buy something anyway- why not buy it from a place that supports women, supports marginalized people, supports the environment, etc.? Here are 5 places to shop for goods that do good- from home products to fashion:

  1. Done Good is a chrome extention that automatically shows you brands that have the kinds of products you’re looking for as you are browsing sites such as Amazon or Google–but that are also doing good for people and the planet.

  2. The Little Market is an online marketplace with a variety of products created to empower women artisans to rise above poverty and support their families.

  3. Ethos Collection has a curated assortment of beautifully designed, fair trade, and sustainably made clothing, accessories and jewelry selected to help support vulnerable populations.

  4. Ethica carries emerging ethical and sustainable fashion & beauty labels and connects consumers and companies that share a commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

  5. Everlane is not a marketplace, but it is an affordable fashion brand that is ethical and sustainable. Best yet, everything they have is under $100 and they even have $16 tees.

Instagram can also be a great place to find great brands with a mission. I recommend browsing the #socent, #purchasewithpurpose, #fairtrade, #goodsthatdogood, and #ethical hashtags to find and support these small businesses. Another great aspect of purchasing from these types of brands is that the products are usually unique and you won’t often find someone else wearing it like you would with a t-shirt from Target.

I hope this article helps with understanding the labels, what is involved behind the label, and how to shop them easily as you start your journey in conscious consumerism.

Written by Catherine Williams, Founder of Terra Digital Media
Terra Digital Media creates personalized digital marketing packages for small businesses & organizations that are changing the world. Many small businesses and organizations don’t have the resources to hire full-time staff to help achieve their marketing goals & mission. This is where we come in! We create a personalized digital marketing package to help achieve your organization’s needs.

catherine williams