The true costs of Black Friday
The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday has become the most important shopping event of the year, as millions of consumers shop online or in the stores to kick off their Christmas shopping. To further fuel their spending, producers and retailers traditionally offer discounts, deals, and sales to encourage impulse buying behavior. While Black Friday was initially a US phenomenon, it is now “celebrated” around the world – with negative effects on people and planet. Cost savings for customers come at a high price, which society and the environment must pay.
From a social perspective, the massive demand for products, often of low quality, comes at the cost of workers further up the supply chain, whose (mental) health and safety are negatively affected, it has been found. Yet, the problems go beyond the manufacturing sector to the retail level, as the day puts considerable pressure on small business owners who cannot afford to compete with the aggressive sales strategies of large retail chains. Black Friday is also known for triggering high levels of violence, as consumers fighting for the best deal overstep normal boundaries. Overall, Black Friday reinforces mindless consumerism while worsening social inequalities globally.
Turning our gaze toward the environmental consequences, things look even worse. Just a week after COP26 concluded with the urgent appeal for immediate climate action, many companies have now committed to net zero pledges to decarbonize their businesses. Yet participation in a day that is all about promoting impulse purchases, thereby increasing overconsumption, stands in stark contrast to our climate reality. The necessary shift towards a sustainable future requires a rethinking of our consumerist lifestyle, moving our focus from acquiring unlimited amounts of low-quality products, toward mindful consumption of high quality, fair, and environmentally friendly produced products – in short, the polar opposite of what Black Friday stands for.