Opinion: Unethical consumption is an excuse for consumer apathy


Graphic by Alexander Cha

Lately, I’ve been hearing the phrase “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” thrown around online. I suppose, at a surface level, it makes sense. Many products from the numerous corporations ruling this world have unethical and harmful practices in place during production. Yet, what bothers me about this phrase is that it is used to excuse supporting a company with controversial or outright repulsive practices. It’s a phrase often used to discourage efforts to boycott a company’s products or services, an effort that should be practiced more rather than scoffed at.

Large companies and organizations do awful things. Whether it be Chick-fil-A’s history with anti-LGBTQ+ controversies, Activision Blizzard’s allegations of workplace abuse or Tesla’s denial of the safety hazards in their vehicles, almost every major company you buy products from has a scandal or ethical issue of some kind, regardless of what excuses or cover ups are conjured to defend the organization. Unfortunately, this has led to consumer apathy. If all that I consume from major companies comes from a bad place, why bother thinking about it?

Boycotting products is why we should bother. Corporations are driven by greed and capital and will do whatever it takes to follow wherever the money comes from. Even with unethical consumption being unavoidable in the modern world, efforts to boycott products and companies should be pushed forth, both by employees and consumers, rather than waved off as a futile effort. While it’s harder for the employee, as they do need a means of income, should the opportunity present itself, they should refuse to support harmful business practices for morality purposes. 

On Nov. 17, Elon Musk created the ultimatum for employees to either work under significantly harsher conditions or leave the company, and as a result, many valuable employees decided to walk out the office. Undoubtedly, this scared Musk and other higher ups, leaving them scrambling to find new people to upkeep the business site.

However, not every company needs to be boycotted, and in some cases, they can’t be. Amazon is quite critical to the online shopping market and is rather hard to avoid if you do any semblance of online shopping. It’s best to save major boycotting efforts for particularly heinous choices or actions from companies, like abusive workplace conditions or blatant racism or homophobia. Though, things less impactful to everyday life can easily be skipped. You don’t need to eat at Chick-fil-A — it’s not going to cause any issues if you stop eating fast food chicken from them. You don’t need to play Activision Blizzard games — it’s not like missing out on a video game will be the end of you.

“There is no ethical consumption under capitalism” is a phrase used as a cheap excuse to refuse to help contribute to change. It’s a phrase used to condone laziness and apathy toward the current state of capitalistic society, and without the push for change for the better, things will undoubtedly get worse. While not every company can or should be boycotted, people should be mindful of what they purchase and refrain from purchasing anything that contributes to a company involved in harmful or heinous activities. Consumers should remain mindful and make an effort to contribute to change. Ignorance may be bliss for some, but it leaves others to suffer.