Since April, when the death toll of a Bangladesh clothing factory fire exceeded a thousand people, there have been dozens of articles urging consumers to understand the grim reality of modern day manufacturing. Articles from The Huffington Post to The New York Times are citing that even when consumers are confronted with the moral costs of cheap manufacturing, they are showing little change in their spending habits.
To break it down, U.S. labor costs about 40% more than it does in China, which makes retail prices 20% higher. A recent New York Times article took a poll to find that 46% of respondents said they would be willing to pay $5 to $20 more for a $50 garment if it was made in the United States. And two-thirds of Americans say they check for Made In America labels when shopping. But despite what consumers say they'll do, statistics show at the end of the day, they're still reaching for the cheaper made overseas goods.
So how can we begin to combat this addiction to bargains? The research shows that the good intention is there, but our dependence and cravings to bargains is insatiable.
Many articles frame only one answer to the problems: raise the price of the same goods. But I believe this is just one solution among so many.
Shopping carries the potential to change the world in a way that most everybody can benefit from. I wonder why we must focus on the negative, when we could be creating the demand for the positive? Shopping can become a soulful experience where we focus on rare artisanal talents to feel good about our purchases, unlike so many of the products we buy that wind up in storage units. Even the book Happy Money: the Science of Smarter Spending proves that you get a bigger emotional bang by making purchases that invest in other people's well-being.
Donna Karan, Zainab Salbi, Diane Osgood, and myself among many others are spearheading a coalition working to create the demand for this Soulful Economy. We are galvanizing a movement for people to realize the beauty and interconnectivity of shopping. Through our lens, we see shopping as a way to create, collaborate, and connect with cultures, all the while alleviating poverty and shopping for the most beautiful products.
Consumers are understandably unwilling to pay more for the same product. So what if we supply consumers with an opportunity to buy hand-woven silk from a team of women in Varanasi, India that have mastered the craft over generations of practice? Or hand-crocheted jewelry that employs and empowers Rwandan genocide survivors and women rebuilding their lives here in America? Both of these companies, Nest and Same Sky, are crafting connections with their consumers while also providing them with exceptional one-of-a-kind craftsmanship.
The Urban Zen Holiday Marketplace and Donna Karan have created an emporium of beautifully handcrafted goods supporting local economies all over the globe. Not only does Donna Karan work with artisans in Haiti, she has also created a magnificent marketplace featuring products from Nomad Two Worlds that employs people in indigenous communities to From the Road that focuses on the story behind the products. Donna Karan and DKNY have been longtime supporters and pioneers in this movement. Likewise, the TOMS MARKETPLACE brings together like-minded companies all working to promote job creation, provide education, food, and healthcare throughout the world. Cole Haan's Talented and Gifted Campaign has also focused their holiday gift guide on the positive effects of rare artisanal talent.
This holiday season the ethical shopping options are plentiful. We must believe that we can employ to empower. Join us in creating the movement and the demand for a soulful economy.
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