Posted on 07 June 2018

IMAGE Integrity ethical blog

It has occurred to me that integrity just doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe it’s harsh to wave my finger at all of humanity but I have no qualms shaking my fist at businesses, and that sucks because businesses are run by humans. Examples of this have been popping up everywhere in my life and it’s making me sad, frustrated and want to sit everyone down and shout ‘whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy’ until I get a reasonable response. I try not to do the latter because my poor husband, Tim, just looks at me helplessly and pats my back as if I’m a 4 year old wanting ice cream for breakfast. Instead, I'll blog about it!

I try not to allow these feelings of frustration (and honestly, a bit of anger) to come from a personal space where perhaps someone wronged me and I have to refrain from wanting to clock them in the jaw, but rather out of a genuine concern for how the world will function if we abandon the quality of integrity (which is ‘being honest and having strong moral principles’ Oxford Dictionary). Surely integrity is something worth preserving in an age where things come and go as fast as Rebecca Black.

I thought I would share a couple of examples minus the naming and shaming. It’s not my intention to ‘out’ the people in these examples or even imply they are ‘bad’ people, but I do want to paint some pretty realistic examples of how integrity has fallen by the wayside. I’ll include an example of my own integrity coming into question too because if I can identify these moments in hindsight, I can be better prepared to face them in future. If I can learn from past mistakes and moments where my actions didn’t match my values, I can resolve not to do it again. It’s quite empowering to think I myself am in charge of my actions and decisions and that individual actions make up the world we live in. Actually, I’m not sure if it’s empowering as much as it is freaking scary because to quote Spiderman and an overused cliche: with great power, comes great responsibility. We, you and I, are responsible for how the world runs. Eek.

Example number one was when someone posted a question in a small business group on Facebook basically asking if anyone declares their cash sales. I’m no accountant but I’m pretty sure declaring your cash sales is not optional. As a small business, large business, or any business for that matter, cash or no cash, you have to declare your revenue in order to be taxed appropriately. What really took me aback was that people began commenting ‘no’ as if it was the most normal thing to do. (Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?)

The second example was a personal one. Another business took artwork from my social media account, blanked out my logo, added some fluffy graphics and called it their own. The real kicker? This was a fellow ‘ethical fashion label’ and I was literally wearing a piece of their clothing when I found out about it! (I sent them a nice, non-passive-aggressive DM asking them to credit me, and they ‘saw’ it but didn’t reply. I’m still trying to let that one go.)

My own example comes up every time I look for new products to stock in the South Melbourne shop. There are a lot of beautiful ‘ethically-branded’ products out there but they don’t necessarily tick the ’ethical’ box by Theo definition. My shop only stocks items we can trace to the maker. Sometimes these are social enterprises where the product passes through multiple sets of hands but I am assured of a business model that exists to support it’s workers with full transparency and a high level of trust (see Outland Denim for a perfect example). Other times, I will know the maker by name. I have candles made by Tanya in Ballarat, wallets made by Varun in Brisbane and scarves crocheted by Lynda in Melbourne. I need to know who makes this stuff!

Green washing is another story so don’t get me started on that (ooh it’s so tempting to but I would definitely need a good pat on the back if I opened that box…), but there are thousands of products that would fly off the shelves (ie. make me some coin) if I chose to stock them, but I simply can’t! When products are ‘Made in x’ with no names, faces or accreditation, chances are they were produced in an off-shore factory where employee well-being isn’t at the top of the priority list (to put it nicely). There was one time I contacted a business to stock their tea which was a social enterprise supplying a one for one product (for every purchase they would donate water to a person in need) based in Sri Lanka. In addition to their tea they gave me some tea infuser bottles (you know the ones that look like a drink bottle with a bamboo lid and you can fill it with loose leaf tea?) and mentioned this particular product had gone bonkers over Christmas and they’d sold ‘x’ with a good profit margin. Great! The problem was they were made in China with no further information to support their practices. Not great! I toyed with the idea of stocking them because they ‘look’ like an environmentally-sound product and donate to charity, but my conscience got the better of me and I said ‘thanks but no thanks’ before I could change my mind and ‘goodbye’ to potential profit margin.

I’m not after a pat on the back (I told you, Tim gives me these in ample supply) but I do want you to think of a time you compromised your values for the sake of work, money or even just convenience. Heck, to make you feel better, I did that just yesterday! I’ve been super aware of the amount of plastic I use (I bring a cup and reusable bag with me most places) and I’m really trying to cut down, but yesterday I ate two minute noodles for dinner and threw 4 plastic sachets and a mini plastic fork into the bin. It’s hard! This whole ‘sticking to your values and not giving in’ thing is super hard! It’s easy to dismiss it and think ‘I’m just one person, it doesn’t make a difference’ or ‘my job requires me to do this, I don’t have a choice’ but the reality is we have the freedom to choose otherwise. If we don’t make integrity cool again, we’ll be teaching kids that it’s ok to steal as long as you don’t get caught, that copying other people’s work is fine as long as they don’t sue you and that making money off other people’s misfortune is just the way the world works. Integrity is key, and it’s in every little choice we make day in and day out.

Derek from Grey’s Anatomy once said ‘The human life is made up of choices. Yes or no. In or out. Up or down.’ And then he rambles on about living and dying and other stuff that is not very relevant to this post. The point is our lives are made up of choices and integrity is the compass we use to make them. (Wow, I should coin that quote!) Here’s to making good choices and understanding that each one, big or small, makes up the world we live in. We can do this!

Until next time,

IMAGE Esther Sign Off

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  • Esther: June 07, 2018

    Hey Molly, I’m glad you could relate to my struggle! It’s incredibly sad that ‘ethical fashion’ has kinda become a niche for people to exploit rather than harness positive change from, but you’re right in that there are definitely people out there trying to do the right thing! (You’re one of them!) Keep up the great work you do! ♡

  • Molly: June 07, 2018

    Esther, this blog post explained all the things I’ve been aching to express! I began working with ethical brands because I thought there would be more integrity, compassion, and honesty (which is definitely true for the most part!) but recently I’m discovering that for a few businesses, it’s just a facade. As always, cudos for being one of the truly good ones. I know it’s hard to stick to all of our values all the time, but the point is that we’re actively trying. That’s more than what most can claim! So, thank you for the integrity boost today, a single person can make a huge difference ♡

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