How Moral Can You Afford To Be?


Before I begin this article I’d just like to point out that I’m not attempting to give a moral lecture, I’m simply asking a question. In the tough economic times we’re currently enduring, How Moral Can You Afford To Be?

Whether it’s down to inflation, benefit cuts or just an overdue pay rise, many of us are now having to watch what we spend more than ever before.

 My wife and I recently hit the shops hoping to find some cheap bargains to kit out our young family with clothes for the winter. The trip went well and we found some amazingly cheap clothes for both ourselves and the kids. When I got home though I thought more deeply about the cost of some of the items we’d bought and couldn’t help but wonder what the moral cost of my shopping trip might be?

How can they make clothes so cheap?

I don’t want to start naming individual retailers but some of the stores which we visited had garments that cost only a few pounds each. How on earth can retailers produce a garment of clothing for just a few pounds? I know we have production lines and computers that simplify the process, but when you produce items of clothing human labour must still be a huge factor in the production process. Perhaps I’m wrong but surely someone has to sit down and sew the seams on the garments? Surely someone has to package the clothes up and deliver them?

Cheap labour must play a huge role in the production of cheap clothing!

Cheap Food

With the press coverage this issue has received in recent years, most of us have likely made our minds up about Free Range foods. It’s well documented that cheap eggs, meat, milk and more all seem to come with some kind of moral consequence to the animal or even the farmer. Whether it’s hens packed together in battery cages unable to move, fish farmed in confined areas living a pointless existence or farmers being paid less for milk than it costs them to produce it, in most cases it’s true to say that cheap fresh food comes at a moral cost.

Then we have the mass produced, fatty, genetically modified foods sold freely in supermarkets. We all know we should only buy sausages that have a meat content of at least 70% (This is one rule that I stick to) and avoid Turkey Twizzlers! The problem is that when you try to switch all your foods to organically grown, free range products which are free from any kind of dodgy fats or additives, your weekly shopping bill increases dramatically.

Sometimes The Lines Are Blurred

To Confuse matters even further I often hear news stories accusing the more expensive brands and retailers of being involved in the same kind of morally questionable practices that the cheaper retailers are accused of. Again I don’t want to name any names but I’m sure you can think of a few examples.

If the clothes we buy and the foods we eat are all produced in the same unethical manner by the majority of retailers, should we actually feel any guilt for buying cheaper brands?

How moral can you afford to be?

So I’m back to my original question, How moral can you afford to be?

We’d all love to make the correct moral choice every time when it comes to the things we buy, but is that realistic in the world we live in. I’m not one for ignoring moral responsibility but I’m also a realist. Can the majority of people really afford to stick to their moral convictions during the tough economic times we face?

6 Responses to How Moral Can You Afford To Be?

  1. This is such a common dilemma, at least for me. I guess I grew up with it, with my Dad’s comments including, “Sometimes I wish everything cost its ‘true’ cost.” Clothes were a big one.
    Knowing things like the dirty dozen produce list helps. I am very thankful that I currently have an income that allows me to make some choices that are more expensive, but more in line with my ethics. Now, if my spouse ate less I could justify buying a lot more organic produce 😉

    Good post 🙂

  2. Dom says:

    I was thinking along the same lines the other day.

    I am starting to think about my investing future. As such I would like to invest in some index trackers. However, how can I ensure that I am investing in companies that are using my money morally.

    I do not have the time to go through the entire index to ensure the unethical companies are removed.

    For example I would prefer not to invest in companies that manufacture cigarettes but there are a couple of biggies that are present in the FTSE and which I will get a slice of in a tracker just like every other company.

    It pains me to think that I am helping these companies to manufacture products that are creating misery. Yet I would prefer to passively invest.

    It seems if I want the best returns with minimal cost I have to accept that I will be investing in these companies.

    Which I think is a shame.

    I guess it’s just capitalism at it’s finest!


    • Matt says:

      The Cooperative bank have always been supposed ethical investors, have you tried looking at them? There are also a few ethical/green etc. funds out there now to choose from if you look

  3. Sometimes I think it boils down to “out of sight out of mind” as well as cost. Some people would curl up in a ball if they saw the processes involved with not only food but clothes making and vow to never buy it BUT, then when the money gets factored some people either have to stop eating such products or fall the side and buy them. Clothing, well I always like to buy quality where I can as it seems to last me alot longer than cheap clothes. That being said I’ve found some pretty high end clothes in the second hand shops for less than new. I do tend to save my money until I can pay for quality items that I do want to last. Great post mate, lots to ponder. Mr.CBB

    • Thanks for the comments everyone! It took me longer than usual to write this post with it being a sensitive issue, so I appreciate you taking the time to comment! Also thanks for highlighting some other areas where morality and budgets collide!

  4. Rachael says:

    Great post! I think we all struggle with this dilemma. I have wanted to switch my food shop to organic for a long time, not only to support farmers and local produce but for better quality of life for the animals. Plus it is nice to know that your food isn’t pumped with chemicals as well!

    But it’s just not affordable, for the cost of one meal would buy me 3 others in supermarkets. Just a shame really but practicality always comes before morality in these situations.

    Sometimes it is out of our hands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *