I get asked this all the time, and for good reason. What makes a product ethical? What does ethical even mean?
What is an Ethical Product?
The problem with this term is everyone has different ethics. So how do we determine what an ethical product really is?
While I don't think it's possible to create a concrete definition, I have determined the five things that I consider when deciding if a product is ethical - how the ingredients are sourced, where they're sourced, the ingredients themselves, and certifications like organic and fair trade.
How a Product is Sourced
This is one of my top priorities. I want to know how a product is sourced. Is it sourced sustainably? Are farms being replenished, or are trees being chopped down willy nilly?
You can learn how a product is sourced by contacting the brand. If they can't tell you about their supply chain, how their supplier's work, or farming practices, maybe they're not sourcing their products sustainably.
Where a Product is Sourced
This is another really important facet of determining if a product is ethical. Where was it sourced? While there's nothing wrong with using sustainably sourced, exotic ingredients, it's not a new idea to reduce our environmental impact by sourcing ingredients and products that were made close to home. You'll save the fuel that has to transport ingredients across the world, and you'll support your local economy and small businesses.
This is one of the reasons I try to focus on Canadian brands. It started as a way to support Canadian brands among the promotion of mostly American brands, but it's also a way to support local businesses and reduce my impact on the environment.
A Product's Ingredients
The actual ingredients of a product can determine if it's ethical or not. To me, using animal ingredients isn't ethical, because those animals were probably killed so someone could make a lipstick. And animal farming is awful for the environment.
I also don't think palm oil is ethical. At all.
Nor do I think using toxic chemicals that harm people and the planet is ethical.
Product Certification - Organic
While a lot of this ethical and sustainable talk can be vague and personal to you, it helps to look at product certifications. If a product is certified organic, you can know and trust that the ingredients were made without toxic pesticides that are harmful to you and to the planet.
Product Certification - Fair Trade
Last but definitely not least is looking for fair trade certifications. If a product contains ingredients that should be fair trade, like coffee, sugar, shea butter, coconut oil, they should be sourcing fair trade ingredients. If not, I look for a different brand, because I really don't want to support products and brands that aren't mindful of the people and the planet.
Determining if a product is 'ethical' or not can be vague, and wishy washy. But I think if we figure out our core values and how we can apply them to our beauty products, we can start to decide which products are truly ethical.
Are there any other things you consider when deciding if a product is ethical?