Consumers debate company morals

Students refrain shopping at places that do not align with their values

Olivia Hohmann

Social Media Manager

 As junior Kate Battaglia shops her friend’s small clothing business, she can not help but feel happy as she knows that she will be supporting a business that uses safe labor practices, unlike large corporations who do not and provide dangerous working conditions and long hours to their workers.

For years, popular brands such as Shein, Chick-Fil-A, Apple, Microsoft and H&M have all received negative attention in the media for a variety of reasons individual to the companies themselves. Some of these companies have been criticized for supporting controversial organizations, while others have been revealed as contributing to exploitative working practices. Oftentimes, people overlook these factors, as these issues do not directly affect them, but others refuse to support the brand when their values do not align with the business’ values. There has been a shift towards more local brands as people have begun to support businesses that use healthy labor practices and are smaller.

“I believe that everyone is aware of what fast fashion is but I don’t think half of these people are aware of the actual brands that support it, use child labor and unsafe labor practices” said Battaglia. “A lot of daily shops that people use, contribute to child labor. I think that more people need to be aware of these situations. People should definitely become more educated on the topic.”

Chick-Fil-A’s crispy, tender chicken is irresistible to some, but because the business’ values do not align well with everyone, some would rather make their own chicken or go somewhere else to eat. According to a Dec. 7 poll of 163 students, 93 percent of them said they  eat Chick-Fil-A. The Chick-Fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy, has a long history of donating to charities that support anti-LGBTQ+ organizations. Although the company released a statement in 2020 about changing its ways and not supporting any charities that have anti-LGBTQ+ stances, some still don’t feel comfortable eating at the fast food chain. And Battaglia is one of them.

“I do not buy from Chick-Fil-A, as the owner of Chick-Fil-A donates to Anti-LGBTQ+ charities,” Battaglia said. “[One of the charities] the CEO donates to is called the Heritage Organization, which is an organization that directly contributes to conversion therapy. I know that it is the owner of the company that is donating the money and not the company, but the money that I spend at Chick-Fil-A is going to the owner’s company, so I don’t feel like it’s right for me to contribute [to] something like that.”

Sophomore Makenna Harvey views giving money to Chick-Fil-A money as supporting the workers and the franchise operators more than supporting the CEO. The Chick-Fil-A employees are kind hearted and say “My pleasure” at the end of every order. She wants to support the employees’ warmth and the extraordinarily delicious and crispy chicken sandwiches.

 “The crispy Chick-Fil-A sandwich definitely qualifies as one of my favorite foods,”  Harvey said. “The food at Chick-Fil-A along with the nice staff makes me want to support the franchise. I see giving money to the company as supporting the employees rather than the owner of the brand.”

Another company that some people boycott is Shein, a fast-fashion online clothing company, many believe that they have unjust working conditions. According to the BBC, many of the Shein factories in China have been known for using informal workplaces that included barred windows as well as no emergency exits. These factories are where the majority of their forced labor workers work for little to no wage. The majority of their clothes are created with synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon, which do not decay. The World Bank believes that  the fast fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50 percent by 2030 if these businesses continue to produce items at this fast rate.

“I’ve done a lot of research on fast fashion organizations by reading articles especially from CNN, and I am just not able to support these companies as child labor is cruel,” Battaglia said. “I’ve tried to encourage my family as much as I can and try to stop them from supporting these businesses. For example, whenever I see my sister looking on those websites, I try to help her find better brands that are more environmentally friendly.”

The brand has also been known to be culturally insensitive. On July 3 of 2020 Shein received backlash for their “Fringe Trim Greek Fret Carpet” which resembled Muslim prayer mats. Forbes called out the brand as some of the mats included religious images of Kaaba. On July 5 of 2020 the brand apologized, but many feel that the apology is not enough. Less than a week later the company received more backlash, but this time for their swastika necklace. The company claimed that it was a Buddhist swastika, but people were still hurt by the fact that the company was not sensitive to the history of the swastika, a symbol used by Nazi Germany. 

“I don’t like how they treat their workers and how they use forced labor,” sophomore Margaret Shirey said. “Also the brand has been known for creating different religiously insensitive items such as making a swastika necklace. The brand has apologized for creating these items, but I still just can not support a brand that creates culturally insensitive products and sells them without thinking twice. The brand did not apologize until they received backlash. Also, the quality of the clothes is extremely low.”

Many stores are working towards providing more environmentally friendly products and safer work spaces for their employees. Some people, like Shirey, believe that instead of supporting large fast fashion companies, people should shop more locally.

“I would rather support more local businesses that don’t use forced labor. I feel like people should always know where their clothes and accessories come from and if they don’t know the full process, then it’s just that they don’t know the whole story.”

According to the World Wildlife Fund, in the past five years, the popularity of internet searches for sustainable goods around the world has increased by 71 percent. More and more people are wanting to support sustainable goods and small businesses. Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake and many more are big supporters of small businesses. These celebrities often post and promote small businesses through their social media platforms. Local Dallas designer Abi Ferrin founded the Love and Freedom Project which focuses on well being, as well as teaching women who were in abusive relationships how to sew so that they can start their own businesses or find work somewhere else.

“I am a big advocate for small businesses as I know that these owners are putting everything they have into their business,” Ferrin said. “I founded the Love and Freedom Project to not only give back to the community but I was a part of an abusive relationship, and I remember how hard it was for me to get back on my feet afterwards. I want to help these women so that they can be independent. The majority of these people go on to start their own businesses, and I always support them as I know how hard they are working.”

Many businesses are working towards providing a positive and loving environment. These places are more focused on the well being of the consumer than larger companies are. One company in particular that is working towards making a positive impact on the world is La La Land. The owner of the business, Francois Reihani, is committed towards hiring young adults who have aged out of the foster care system. He is hoping to bring awareness to this subject, as well as create a welcoming and happy environment for his customers. The store’s colors are white and yellow, both to represent peace and happiness.

“I love going to La La Land as I love the vibes of the place,” Shirley said. “It is just filled with so much positivity. I love these smaller businesses that really focus on good vibes. The employees of these places are always so much more helpful and nice as I feel they value the business more than large companies.”

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