Because of the abundance of vague (and potentially misleading) vocabulary floating around in the ethical/sustainable product space, we found ourselves continually grasping for a term to describe the brands who are the real deal. Those with intentional values who are actively prioritizing ethical standards in consumer goods and related industries. It hardly helps that the nomenclature––our word of the day, you're welcome––for better-business models is limited, and rarely taught in schools (or universities for that matter).
What industry or space are we talking about? Exactly! Fair Trade? Eco-friendly? Ethical products? Sustainable consumer goods? Yes, these are all different. But they are somehow related too. The point is this: we need a better term that encompasses the growing market of products, services, and information animated by the pursuit of a better world––not just better marketing. Sure, epithets like “sustainable,” “responsibly sourced,” and “ethically made” generally help get the job done when used accurately (we use them ourselves sometimes). But unfortunately, these terms have also become, in the Fair and Ethical Trade universe, the equivalent of “natural” foods in the organic grocery industry; adjectives with no set definition and an inherent vagueness that smacks of greenwashing.
Well, to fix this problem, we made up our own term. Introducing: the etho-economy.
1. The portion of the global economy made up of enterprises and exchanges that prioritize and strive for fair wages, sustainability, and/or the dignity of all stakeholders.
The etho-economy is all about better business. It's the part of the global economy made up businesses that prioritize dignified wages and activities that respect the environment, as well as the inherent human dignity of all their stakeholders. Today, it's Certified B Corporations, Fair Trade, Ethical Trade, social enterprise, and many other mission-driven companies and organizations growing this part of the world economy. We also think that it should, at the minimum, be the consumer goods economy of a sustainable, more prosperous future.
Some of the businesses operating in this space are using technology and business to do something truly innovative: they are using their activities to foster economic opportunity and entrepreneurship, oftentimes in developing regions, in order to help alleviate extreme poverty. By taking responsibility for the inputs and outputs of our businesses against ethical standards, we are doing our best to care for every human and habitat touched by our activities. (We regularly communicate with our partnered brands, workshops, and seller community members to nurture entrepreneurship, and to ensure that all parties are adhering to our core ethical standards.)
For everyday consumers, etho-economy brands are also shifting consumption norms toward mindful and more conscious spending. By marketing and selling responsibly sourced goods, we are trying to break the rapidly-paced, dehumanizing patterns of production and buying that lead to environmental exploitation, and which can sustain modern poverty and slavery. And, these companies are doing this in the spirit of transparency so that customers know what they are supporting with their dollars.
Our core task is to bring together conscious buyers and sellers around the world. Tapping into the spirit of goodness, we are trying to make it easy for socially-conscious shoppers to do the right thing no matter what they're buying. That's why our marketplace will write the next chapter in this global movement; because we're bringing together consumers everywhere with the numerous ethical brands growing the etho-economy.
Who Makes Up the Etho-economy?
Still wondering what the hell we're talking about? We got you.
Some prominent examples of companies operating in the etho-economy besides certified Fair Trade brands (which we're always talking about) include certified B Corporations. A certified B Corp. is a business whose environmental and social impact is assessed and measured against rigorous ethical and environmental standards by the independent non-profit, B Lab. B Corp.'s are “accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business [in order to] build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.” They are driving a larger movement bent on normalizing and growing mission-driven companies such that companies compete to be “best for the world,” and not solely for increasing profit for shareholders.
Currently, our company is what’s called a “Pending B Corporation.” This is a special status designed for startup companies who haven’t been in business long enough to gather sufficient impact data to satisfy the full B Corporation Certification process. (We plan on reaching full B Corp. status within a year and are super excited to have achieved Pending B Status. )
One B Corp. you may have heard of is Patagonia, who has pushed for dignified working conditions and environmental stewardship while also taking responsibility for every step in their global supply chain (even when doing so has been difficult). In short, the etho-economy at its core is just about businesses who are doing the right things (ideally for the right reasons).
Whether large or small, when an enterprise takes care of their supply chain––for the many habitats and potential stakeholders involved––they are part of the etho-economy. Why shop anywhere else?