Having added Halloween to our calendar, another horror has arrived from across the Atlantic: Black Friday. All media and commercial channels are full of special Black Friday offers and deals. But those eager to indulge in this ultimate consumer frenzy probably don’t remember where the words come from: the 1929 Black Friday stock market crash leading to massive unemployment and poverty that in the end paved the way to Word War II.
Bearing in mind that business barons are not interested in citizens, but in consumers, Black Friday serves to fill the gap before the Christmas madness starts. Of course those who have to juggle tight budgets are bound to be tempted to benefit from special offers and special deals. This is more than understandable. However, it is also an adrenaline rush for people who want to spend and consume. This is the business concept behind TKMAX (take a maximum) and PRIMARK. Cheap clothes to be consumed in the short term and without any awareness of what is behind the low prices: the exploitation of cheap labour, child labour and environmental pollution. This is certainly not a nice Christmas story about charity. It is the social reality that consumers want to ignore and sellers try to keep quiet about.
There was a public outcry when Rana Plaza collapsed but it lasted only a few days. Trade unions and campaigners tried to raise awareness of the responsibility of the international and global brands for their supply chains. Although most of them have signed a charter on the traceability of their supply chains and claim to uphold sustainable production, the reality of the garment industry, for example, shows that all too often this is mere green washing. Additionally, small suppliers cannot possibility compete with the global brands and cannot engage in the Black Friday rush. If they were to engage in such campaigns their margins would be reduced even more and the peak selling point would hide the tip of the iceberg: it would only concentrate sales on one date which would then not take place on other dates.
The discrepancy between the ambition of slow and responsible consumption, between the short term and sustainability is obvious. The readiness to close one’s eyes to the reasons for the low prices is the social price to pay. And it is a higher price than the conscious consumption of goods. Hence the work of the unions to achieve decent work and of the campaigners for clean clothes is way more than a moral engagement.
The 2030 agenda is more than a framework. We are still convinced that is still the best framework for a necessary change towards more sustainability and to mitigate the effects of climate change.