Is it time to permanently score-out Black Friday from our diaries and replace it with more general sustainable spending habits? CoGo’s Kyle MacNeill investigates.
Black Friday’s position in the calendar seems a little bizarre. It takes place the day after Thanksgiving, a time that’s ostensibly dedicated to counting your blessings and showing appreciation for what you’ve already got.
Just 24 hours later, the focus pivots to what’s new. Previous gratitude is pushed to the back, like an over-zealous shopper caught on camera. Infinite sales, discounts and must-have opportunities, instead, take centre stage.
While Thanksgiving remains almost exclusively in North America, Black Friday has quickly crossed the Pond to all countries with a penchant for consumerism. Beginning in the 1960s, it quickly took on symbolism as a way for retailers to move from being ‘in the red’ towards being ‘in the black’, opening their doors before the birds were up and letting a flock of shoppers pour in.
Although it may once have had positive intentions to support business, Black Friday has continued to take on darker undertones. Injuries and even deaths have occured in the US through the scramble to stock, and, for those working in retail, it’s the most nightmarish day possible.
Clearly, too, it’s diabolically bad for the environment. Monolithic discounts encourage people to buy mass-produced things they don’t need (or want), leading to a second wave of waste. It’s overproduction pushed to the max, a neo-capitalist dream, maybe: but every environmentalist’s worst nightmare.
So, what on earth can we do? If we’re looking at the issue top-down, it’s ultimately businesses’ decisions to engage with the occasion and give a green light to mass discounts and overproduction.
Which means that it’s important for us to amplify the efforts of maverick businesses going against the grain, those risking losing out on higher turnover by adopting a winning approach to the planet.
It’s these businesses that make up our app. We’re strong believers in supporting purpose-led companies who are looking to have a positive impact on the world, forming CoGo’s portal of over 20,000 do-good businesses to explore.
Every purchase you make adds emissions to your real-time carbon footprint – so anything that discourages unnecessary spending or encourages more sustainable buys is something we’ll get behind.
Take our partner Mud Jeans, for example. Last year, the circular denim brand swapped Black Friday for Blue Friday, increasing prices to cheekily discourage consumption. It also ramped up its charitable efforts, donating €20 per item sold to Sea Shepherd, and ran a full programme of alternative activities to shopping.
Noah, the New York streetwear brand, meanwhile, has closed its online store completely for Black Friday since 2016, greeting would-be shoppers with a message that they’re shut. CoGo-listed Ikea is also turning heads by not offering any Black Friday sales this year, instead kick-starting its buy-back scheme to allow you to return old furniture for an Ikea voucher.
We’re always happy to say on record that we’re not against consumption on a theoretical level. We just believe that it can be done, much, much better. That’s why we amplify our local, ethical businesses and nudge our users towards using their spending power for good.
So while businesses can work from the top to make Black Friday a day resigned to history, we can all do our bit as empowered consumers. If demand was non-existent during Black Friday, it simply wouldn’t happen. The power we have as consumers is to boycott businesses choosing to prioritise profit over people.
The run-up to Christmas is a crucial time for businesses, so we feel it’d be wrong to lay down a one-size-fits-all ‘don’t buy’ policy. Instead, we think the key to painting Black Friday a greener hue is by supporting the social enterprises, carbon-conscious, waste-reducing, plant-based game-changers close to our hearts.
That’s not just for 27 November, though. It’s the way we should be spending every time we whip out our cards, cash or contactless. With our Carbon Footprint Tracker, too, you’ll be able to see the world of difference it makes.
So, this Black Friday, try turning it Blue, Green or ‘Footprint’. Just, whatever you do, don’t buy stuff from thoughtless companies, thoughtlessly. It may help multinationals get into the black, but it’ll only get you into the red, and even further from the green…
Download CoGo for free and try its open-banking powered carbon footprint tracker, to make an instant impact with your buying decisions. Learn more about how the company formed – from an idea at a festival to a global leader in consumer carbon footprinting – in this short film from founder Ben Gleisner
The Good Business Festival is passionately non-exclusive. It’s not about what you do or who you know. It’s not about agreeing on everything all of the time. It’s about everyone working towards a better world – no matter where you’re starting from.