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How You Can Do Your Part While Shopping: Priti Devi of Decorator’s Notebook

Increasing ethical awareness means many are considering brands and retailers much more carefully. 

An interesting phenomenon in recent years has been the growing awareness by an increasingly large percentage of people across the world of a need to purchase more responsibly. This means many people are considering brands and retailers more carefully. They do this by consciously purchasing ethically manufactured products or products from a brand that demonstrates socially responsible behaviour.

This new wave of change is a wonderful and important bit of awareness, especially for people living in wealthier countries, where brand worship is all-encompassing. Encouraging companies to adopt more transparent participation in ethical, environmental and social initiatives can be assisted through the selective purchasing of products and services. Customers can select which brands to support based on a series of corporate social responsibility (CSR) benchmarks.

When it comes to the luxury market segment, one might wonder how buying expensive, branded fashion items can ever be considered a responsible choice. While splurging on an expensive dress or handbag can seem like a frivolous decision, doing some research on the company and the integrity of its supply chain, ‘fair trade’ practices and contributions towards communities that are involved in producing special products for the brand, is a good way to assess how socially or environmentally responsibly the company really is.

People around the world today, particularly those that have been dubbed ‘millennials’, are questioning the impact conspicuous consumption and increasing waste is having on the planet. High-profile celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Redford and Jessica Alba have worked tirelessly to bring greater awareness of the havoc climate change can cause to the planet. Lauren Bush, a former fashion model, launched a not-for-profit fashion company FEED with the idea of producing organic, socially responsible fashion products to fight hunger.

Sceptics might be surprised to learn about luxury brand Louis Vuitton’s Life programme, which encompasses its five key business groups. Each of these groups are tasked to ensure they are able to provide details on raw materials sourced, supply chain and material traceability, eco design, product longevity, customer and supplier relations and the reduction of greenhouse gases. Other luxury brands such as Cartier promote the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards: an international business plan competition that is open to female entrepreneurs across the globe.

Some of the unpleasant and hidden elements behind specific products for major brands are often related to aspects such as cruelty to animals. Concerned consumers and animal rights activists must continue their efforts to ensure that cruel culling and unnecessary testing on animals for beauty products is completely phased out. A growing number of customers seek ‘no animal testing’ labels on products they use. Popular global brands such as Body Shop were pioneers in positioning themselves in this market.

Even in countries such as China, where socially responsible practices by home-grown brands are in their infancy, the awareness of the need to build brand popularity through ethical, environmental and socially responsibility practices is creeping in. A number of new companies are producing products that cater to the sensibilities of the new generation of ethically aware customers.

Other brands position themselves as involved participants in socially responsible practices. In Singapore, Charles & Keith is a local shoes and accessories brand that uses polyurethane leather: an artificial form of leather that is not very biodegradable. However, its business has been built on solid foundations of CSR and includes human rights causes, as well as environmental initiatives. It has also been an active supporter of women’s health issues and gender equality.

We at Decorators Notebook contribute two percent from every sale to three different charities. Two of these charities are involved in the prevention of trafficking of women and young girls in India, Nepal and Cambodia, and one is a wildlife charity, working to prevent the poaching of rhinos and elephants in Africa.

One of my favourite forms of environmental, animal and community welfare participation emanates from the opportunities leisure travel provides. There is an increasing interest by travellers in being able to contribute to environmental protection, animal welfare and community causes while on holiday. Travel operators such as Responsible Travel offer a wide range of ‘experiential’ opportunities for travellers to immerse themselves in. Its offers range from elephant and turtle conservation travel in Africa and the Galápagos Islands, to sports coaching for school children in India and volunteering for rebuilding of villages in Nepal. Altruvistas is another eco-tourism company that organises trips for travellers to help sustain local community livelihoods.

While there has never been a better time to enjoy the finer things in life, there are endless ways to ensure that we are more altruistic in our outlook towards our purchases. Responsible buying does not minimise the fun of luxury shopping, travel or holidays. It simply ensures that we make informed choices based on knowledge about a company and its responsible practices.

Priti Devi is the Founder and Owner of