Hey Change Maker!
Our guest this week is LeeAnne McCoy of Change The World By How You Shop, an amazing online ethical shopping guide!
We begin the podcast by discussing how LeeAnne got started with Change The World By How You Shop. Prior to launching her website, LeeAnne saw a video of imprisoned Chinese pastors being forced to make Christmas lights until their fingers bled. The video inspired her to stop buying items in China and completely changed the way she shopped. After looking for an ethical shopping guide for the United States and coming up short, LeeAnne decided to create her own shopping guide. The website started as a way to help people find shops for specific ethical products and evolved to include 125 different brands and shops. LeeAnne laments that the pandemic hurt many of the brands she works with, forcing some to shut down entirely. As a result, over the past few years, much of her work has focused on connecting artisans to groups that can help them thrive. She emphasizes that she tries to do whatever she can to prevent the ethical shops she cares so deeply for from closing.
After that, I ask LeeAnne why she thinks it’s so important to shop ethically. She believes that as Christians, we are responsible for our actions, especially when we’re equipped with knowledge of injustice or inequality. To her, shopping ethically means supporting people who are really changing lives. LeeAnne explains how the income generated from the ethical products makes a huge difference to the artisans selling those products.
Next, we talk about some of the problems caused by companies using a less-than-ethical supply chain. LeeAnne discusses how consumers today have very high expectations when it comes to shopping – they expect to get their products both quickly and cheaply. This expectation puts pressure on companies to deliver, which often results in cutting corners in the form of underpaid employees and unsafe working conditions. LeeAnne frequently writes to companies to ask about the conditions in the areas where their products are made. While some businesses are able to claim ethical working conditions, many reply that they don’t know where their products come from. What’s worse – some companies are aware of unethical or unsafe conditions, but don’t care enough to do anything about it.
LeeAnne initially wanted to start leading boycotts, but after researching the issue, she realized that boycotts don’t always help, and sometimes they can even backfire on the workers. She’s noticed that for the companies who truly don’t care about the conditions of their working environments, they’ll do just the bare minimum just to make themselves look better, and only when the issue has been brought to the public eye. She also talks about how consumer behaviors and attitudes are now shifting to favor companies who support ethical working conditions. Consumers, now more than ever before, are demanding more ethically made and more sustainably made products.
We also talk about some of the products that are out there that people might be surprised to learn have ethical options. LeeAnne mentions eyeglass holders and keychains as both easy ethical switches. She also discusses how impactful a seemingly small purchase – $10 or $20 – can be to an artisan. Accordingly to LeeAnne, “Every little bit does make a difference.” She explains how that small amount of money can be lifesaving to a family in a developing country.
To anyone who hasn’t gone out of their way to shop ethically before, LeeAnne recommends starting with just one item that’s an easy switch to make. She herself started with chocolate. She recommends another site, www.simpleswitch.org, that helps visitors find ethical switches for the products they use everyday. We also discuss one of our favorite ethical shops, www.whiterainbowproject.org. For those who may feel guilty about previous purchases, LeeAnne counsels that it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything you’ve ever bought was unethically made. She advocates for listeners to focus on the ethically made item(s) that they deliberately choose to buy. LeeAnne mentions some of her favorite shops, which include Elegantees, Lemonade Boutique, and Sak Saum.
As we wrap up the episode, we discuss LeeAnne’s inspirations and how listeners can partner with her to change the world. LeeAnne names Shop With a Mission, an online fair trade marketplace, and its founder, Kathy Gaulton, as her inspirations. She encourages listeners to visit her website to browse the products available and/or engage with the brands on social media. To LeeAnne, every little bit makes a difference.