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5 Ways to Avoid Shopping with Kindwashing Businesses

The customer is always right.

A mantra universally worshipped by anyone in a customer facing role. From hospitality employees and business consultants, to bespoke cake makers and retail staff, everyone who provides a service to a real life human person understands the power that is held by these shoppers. This is a power that can make or break a business, and one that customers aren’t afraid to use. If consumers disagree with the politics, ethics or values of an organisation, they can choose to write a scathing review, or even go as far as to boycott the service provider altogether.

All business owners know how important it is to have satisfied and happy customers, and go to extreme lengths to ensure that the positive impact of their service is preserved. However, where kindness, ethics and sustainability are concerned, some businesses think that marketing kind, rather than being kind, will allow them to harness the power of the consumer for their own gain.

This deceitful manipulation of optics is called kindwashing: the process of giving a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s impact and procedures prioritise people’s wellbeing and happiness above all else, regardless of the reality.

As the protection of ethics and environment become increasingly more important to consumers, people want to know that the companies they’re spending their hard earned cash with are as kind as they say they are.

But how can you know for sure whether a business is truly kind or not?

Here are 5 things you can do or look out for to ensure that the businesses you shop with really practice what they preach when it comes to kindness and sustainability.

1. Look past their social media presence & do some research

It’s easy to be wooed or sidetracked by an appealing instagram profile grid, full of wispy proclamations of climate action or protection of their people. But both websites and social media presence can be carefully curated to fine-tune the kindwashing message.

Look up this organisation in the news (local or sector specific) or on customer review sites such as TrustPilot. If they’re doing something unethical or unsustainable that they wouldn’t want shared on their shiny insta feed, news sources or customer review platforms are the best places to find it.

2. Get the scoop on the company culture

For larger organisations in particular, websites like GlassDoor allow previous employees to give an unfiltered opinion of their working experience in this environment. One particular red flag to look out for would be a 50/50 split between 5* reviews and 0* reviews with very little in the middle of the scale.

Whilst not everyone is going to absolutely love the place they work, a dichotomy of extreme love or hate in glassdoor reviews screams a ‘you’re either in or out’ workplace culture. Organisations with ratings in this pattern normally aren’t inclusive enough to give all of their employees the same 5* experience. Chances are that yes, this business does care for people, but only a select group.

3. Are they approved?

As with GlassDoor and Trustpilot, the most reliable opinions are always from people outside of the organisations themselves. There are plenty of independent bodies and organisations out there whose job it is to do the research that you don’t have the time for. For example, is this organisation Fair Trade Listed? Are they partnered with any smaller organisations that champion the beliefs they say they do? Are they B Corp Certified?

Our Kind Currency Business Club is full of businesses who really do practise what they preach. They are required to undergo a rigorous vetting process, and are examined against our core Kind Currency pillars before being admitted to the community. Then, the shoppers in our Human-Kind Club receive deals and discounts from only the kindest and most sustainable of businesses. Sign up to our Human-Kind Club for just £5 a month to be pointed in the direction of kind and sustainable businesses. We take the work out of shopping kind.

4. If it’s cheap, there’s probably an unethical explanation

Whilst everyone loves a bargain, shopping at truly ethical and kind businesses does require a bit more of an investment. If a product is too cheaply priced without a deal or discount in place, this normally means one of two things:

  1. A component of your product has been sourced unethically and shipped cheaply across the world

  2. An employee hasn’t been paid properly for their labour

With the cost of living rising to unprecedented levels, not all of us are in the position to be able to prioritise our moral compass over monetary cost. But if you do have the disposable income to invest in kinder businesses, taking a closer look at their prices is one way you can ensure your investment is being made in the right places.

5. Still not sure? Don’t be afraid to ask!

If you’re still not sure whether a business is truly kind or ethical and want the hard evidence straight from the horse’s mouth, reach out to the business in question and ask for more information.

Truly ethically and kind businesses will be delighted to share not only their proof of, but also their motivations for being kind and ethical with their customers.

Kindwashers, on the other hand, will fob you off and point you in the direction of their existing social media claims.

When it comes to true business kindness and ethics, separating the wheat from the chaff can feel a bit labour intensive at first. But the reward comes in finding the truth. Knowing that you’re parting with your hard earned cash to support businesses who are truly kind helps you exercise your unlimited power as a kind conscious shopper.



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