Dignity Over Dependency: Why You Should Give A Damn About Empowering People

By Morgan Ginn & Courtney Jones

In recent years, there has been a big onset of do good products and companies that allow you to do more with your consumerism. For example buying everyday products that give back to aid the world (think Dawn soap). But when we take a closer look at companies in the fashion world that are promoting themselves as “do good” companies, what we find is they are actually just running on a charity model, or a one-for-one model. These companies/products might make you feel good about your consumerism habits but they aren’t doing much in the long-run of global development.

The one-for-one model has a way of making our consumerism appear to be the solution to global inequality. If you buy this brand of coffee you’re providing water for a village or if you buy this brand of shoes you can put shoes on the feet of an impoverished child. This is often highly promoted on the packaging and you feel hella good walking up to the cashier, with a glint in your eye saying, “look at me, I’m a good person.” But let’s reign that in for a sec.

What we hate most about this model is that it presents a western savior logic: our consumerism is the solution to ending poverty. Rather, our consumerism is usually to blame for the inequality in the world. Because we want items at the snap of our fingers and for a low cost, workers are being paid next to nothing for working long, hot hours so you can get your hands on a $5 t-shirt.

We caution you here to not feel bad about yourself for buying cheap clothes. We’ve all been there, but we are here now to educate ourselves about why we cannot keep doing that. So chin up buttercup, we have a world to change.

The logic behind one-for-one companies acts as a band aid not a solution. Sure you provided a pair of shoes for a child or water for a village but what happens when that child outgrows their shoes or that village uses up the water. What then? Think GIVE a man a fish and he’s full for that day, but TEACH a man to fish and he’s never hungry again. This logic is crucial here. One-for-one models while still doing good, are just giving. They are not actually helping people at their core or even changing the community long term.

The one-for-one model conditions people into a cycle of dependency–constantly waiting for the next handout. This is also dangerous because then those people are seen as lazy, when most of the times that is not the case. People want to work because they want to provide for themselves and for their families. But they need help getting there, and a pair of shoes doesn’t always make that leap.

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Products sold through this model are usually about a trend, something that is fleeting. It comes and it goes. And when it goes, what now for the people who were benefitting?

We don’t think this is how companies, especially fashion companies, should work. We believe ethical fashion is a movement not a trend. That’s why our site is called Not The New Black because we believe ethical fashion is the absolute right thing, not the trendy thing.

Our belief is that ethical fashion is about a movement of people who are choosing to give a damn about where their products are sourced. It’s about people who care enough about our world and the people in it that they demand a higher standard for fashion. These are the dreamers who believe in the future of fashion, those who love it so much that they care that their clothes are being sourced ethically and that the environment isn’t being destroyed in the process. It’s a movement of dreamers and world changers (who just happen to always be well dressed).

This is why we believe in the empowerment model, not the one-for-one model.

We believe in long lasting change rather than a quick fix. We believe in fair wages so that workers can put their children through school rather than a sponsorship program that does it for them. We believe in economic development instead of handouts. We believe in dignity not dependency. We believe in people.

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So, how is the empowerment model different? Well, it’s about believing that people are capable of fixing their own circumstances. And it’s about providing them with the resources to do so–through providing a job that pays a livable wage, and education that teaches them how to budget. It’s about supporting companies that are making a long lasting difference, it’s about real tangible impact.

The one-for-one model has good intentions but sometimes good intentions are never enough. So if you own a pair of toms or have bought a product that promises to give in honor of your purchase don’t feel bad. In fact, thank you! Thank you for caring enough to do something and for trying to make a difference with your consumerism. But if we want to see true growth and have a real impact we need to be smarter about the way we help people. We need real sustainable change not a quick fix. We need a movement–a movement of dreamers and world changers. We need you.


Check out our list of conscious companies: the best way to make a difference with your consumerism is to support companies who are committed to sustainable and ethical practices.

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