Ethical consumerism is on the rise. A recent report - Colmar Brunton's Better Futures Report 2017 - showed that 69 per cent of Kiwis said they were willing to pay more to get the best organic, sustainable and ethically produced products.
In addition, 50 per cent said they won't buy a company's products if they don't have sustainability credentials and 73 per cent said it is important for them to work for a company that is socially and environmentally responsible.
In 2015 global research by Nielsen showed that 66 per cent of global respondents say they’re willing to pay more for products and services that come from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact, up from 55 per cent in 2014, and 50 per cent in 2013.
That study found that commitment to the environment has the power to sway product purchase for 45 per cent of consumers surveyed. Commitment to social value (43 per cent) and the consumer's community (41 per cent) are also important purchase drivers.
We've seen the meteoric rise of slow fashion, the growing condemnation of plastic waste and the widespread awareness of what goes into the food we eat. All of these things are awesome and should hopefully start to become the norm rather than the exception (though progress is still painfully slow).
While I am thrilled to see the changes in fashion, food and other goods, it still bothers me that the concept of ethical interiors seems to be lagging woefully behind.
We are starting to see glimmers of hope with some stores picking up the ethical interiors baton:
And others, like Aerende and us at Needs More Cushions are trying to use the creation of homewares to provide employment opportunities for those who otherwise struggle to find work in the traditional jobs market.
All well and good, but it all feels like a bit of an uphill struggle with the big brands that probably do the most harm but that could have the most influence, making only small or tokenistic gestures towards change.
Of course I wholeheartedly support efforts by some of the bigger players to do more, such as H&M's conscious range or West Elm's handcrafted collection. However, seeing these kinds of initiatives does leave me with the question of why all interior products can't be made by artisans, produced in smaller quantities or with more sustainable materials, or crafted onshore by those who can't find mainstream employment?
Muna and Nubia cutting some of our artisan-crafted fabric ready for cushions
Why are we as consumers satisfied with just one 'special' range of ethical interiors products with the rest continuing to be mass produced, trend-driven and perpetuating dubious supply chains and low wages?
I know it is not an easy problem to solve, and that we as consumers also have much to answer for. We continue to want the nicest things for our homes at the lowest prices, and we tend to not ask too many questions about where those things have come from, what they're made of or who made them.
Our Bamako mudcloth cushion looking just a little bit glamorous, demonstrating that buying ethical does not mean compromising on style!
Since starting NMC, I've made a conscious effort to think far more carefully about the products I buy across all areas of my life - from homewares to clothing and beauty. And contrary to my expectations, it's actually saved me money overall!
Where I used to buy something on impulse, I now undertake more research and focus on purchasing the things I actually need (or really, really, want). That means that I shop less overall, though I may perhaps spend a little more on the objects I do buy. Even so, I appreciate what I now buy so much more than the old, not-thought-through-but-cheap-so-who-cares pieces, and that to me is priceless. It also means less clutter and therefore less dusting. Win all round!
If making a shift towards ethical interiors is something you're keen to do, why not sign up to our mailing list for all the inspiration you'll need to create a home that not only looks good but has a story to tell? You'll be glad you did.