Many factors come into play when determining if a brand is ethical. It has become commonplace for large corporations to use sweatshops overseas and provide poor conditions for workers. Some choose to buy only American made products, to avoid exploitation of workers overseas. However, the first thing to do when deciding to become a more ethical shopper is to determine what your personal ethics are.
Some ethical shoppers choose to focus their energy on buying products from corporations that do not make use of child labor. In order to keep prices low, many companies have turned to exploiting child labor laws overseas. This allows the corporations to make their products for as cheap as possible, sell the product at and elevated (yet still affordable) price to consumers, and still make the company more money than they ever could by producing produced in the United States.
Some shoppers focus on companies that only employ union workers. Those companies that choose to keep their manufacturing in the United States have been known to take steps to prevent unions from forming. If a company can avoid a union for forming, they can underpay their employees and short hours to avoid providing full time benefits. This is common among most grocery stores and fast food restaurants. Without the cost of negotiating wages and benefits with a union, prices can remain low and profits and remain high.
Lastly, some focus on how companies treat animals in the production of their products. Vegetarians, vegans, and people who prefer that animals be treated with dignity have different standards on how animals are treated. However, they are all interested in the wellbeing of animals involved in the creation of products. Meat producers have come to use factory farming to produce the most meat possible to distribute. However, the conditions are very poor for animals involved and many people are starting to take notice of this treatment.
One thing to remember when considering ethical decisions when it comes to selecting brands used is that you must do your research. Unfortunately, things are not as simple as looking at a label and knowing how a product made its way to the store shelf. To be a truly ethical shopper, you must spend the time researching individual brands and making the decision of what ethical practices you feel comfortable supporting.