What are ethics?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ethics as the “moral principles that control or influence a person’s behaviour.” Ethics concern your values, how you go about living by them, and by extension your interpretation of what is ‘good’ for both individuals and society. Our ethics are the road signs that help us navigate life’s decisions, and direct us as we struggle to accommodate our innate selfish desires with the greater, communal good. Ethics anchor the multitude of daily decisions, large and small, in simple questions: ‘what is important to me?” and “what will make the world a better place?”
So how to I choose an ethical gift?
Buying an ethical gift starts with consideration of what is important to you – and what is important to the person you are buying for.
The Ethics Centre puts this beautifully: “when we give, we create a shared meaning between individuals”. When considering what to give someone as a gift, we initially need to pause and reflect on what they mean to us, and how best to show them this.”[i]
Since gifts are highly symbolic and an opportunity to say what a person means to you, the ‘perfect gift’ will depend on your unique relationship and shared values.
Do you and your lucky recipient both value unique, hand-made items? Do you both value supporting small local businesses? Is buying local a key criteria for you both? What will bring you or your lucky recipient joy? What will make them smile, laugh, or cry (in a good way!)?
Here are some questions you may wish to ask yourself when selecting a gift:
- Who made it?
- Is there Art and love and skill involved?
- What is the story behind the product?
- Is it hand-made?
- Is it designed in Australia?
- Is it made in Australia?
- Is it made from sustainable materials, or in a sustainable way?
- Does buying this item support the creative arts in Australia?
- Is it authentic?
- Is the maker paid a fair price and have safe working conditions?
- Would you be happy for your recipient to know where you purchased their gift?
In some cases, reflection and prioritisation are required. For example, many people want to buy Australian made gifts, however globalisation in recent decades has resulted in massively reduced manufacturing options here in Australia.
Some Australian creatives design locally but choose to have products manufactured overseas, so that they can offer their products at a price people are willing to pay, and by extension enable them to live off their creative talent in a sustainable way.
An ethical supplier will be able to tell you about where they’re having items made, and there are an increasing number of sustainable and ethical manufacturers, with regulatory checks and oversight, emerging across Asia and the Pacific to address the demand for ethical manufacturing.
How do you select products?
At Stylish Australiana we value and celebrate the creative talent of local artists, and the role of art and relationships in strengthening society.
When searching nationwide for suitable gifts and souvenirs to include in our store, we look for items that are the direct work of the creatives involved – designed by, created by, even hand made by Australian based creatives.
We work with creatives who are making what they choose, not because they’re working to a brief, but because they are inspired.
We work with small scale creatives - many of whom are inspiring, creative women working from a home studio - to offer a broader audience – and we always order and pay upfront so there is no financial risk to the artist.
Where can I go for more information?
The independent, not-for-profit Ethics Centre in NSW has a wealth of information, including information sheets and articles.
The Ethical Consumer Group (based in Melbourne) publishes an annual shopping guide.
The Ethical Consumer is a UK-based cooperative with a range of information for consumers and a regular magazine.
If you are considering buying Indigenous art work, please familiarise yourself with the Indigenous Art Code and ensure you’re buying from a reputable dealer who is registered with the Code.