Jérôme and I founded Cambio Market with a goal: do business differently. We want our business to be transparent, to employ 100% ethical business practices, and to always put people first above everything – this means prioritizing our customers, our partners, our future employees, and even our personal wellbeing over our personal bank accounts. In order to run a business ethically, however, we need to lead ethical lives – but what does it mean to live ethically, and how?
These are precisely the kind of questions Jérôme and I put out there for our Cambio community to answer. We held a Facebook giveaway several weeks ago and asked two questions: (1) What does living ethically mean to you? and (2) How do you make the world a better place? The responses we received were wonderfully insightful and taught us a few things about this business of changing the world.
Question #1: What does living ethically mean to you?
For many people, the term “ethical living” is reserved for hard-core extremists. You may think of hippies from the ’70s (or their modern-day equivalents) living in the woods and cut off from civilization, fashioning clothes from sticks and leaves. The reality is most of us can’t (and don’t want to) live like this, and we don’t have to. Leading an ethical lifestyle doesn’t mean we have to turn our whole lives upside down and give up on society.
When we put the question out there for our community to answer, we received responses like “living outside of myself”, “being aware of my impact”, or “making environmentally conscious decisions.”
Dani, a giveaway participant and founder of Canadian social enterprise Tribe of Lambs, shared:
“For me living ethically is making conscious choices on what we wear, what we eat, what we put on our skin, and what we put in our homes. Those choices (for me) need to have minimum impact on the environment and maximize the difference it makes for the people who makes the items – small business owners, local entrepreneurs etc. We vote with our dollars everyday, and I like voting for the ethical choices everyday…”
Ultimately, living ethically means something different to each of us, but the key is this: it always starts with you. It starts first with awareness, and then acceptance: First, awareness that your actions do have an impact (for good or bad) and second, acceptance that you must do something about it. But what can you do?
Question #2: How do you make the world a better place?
There’s another misconception that changing the world entails something grandiose – you need to fly across the world to volunteer in remote villages or war-torn countries, or work for prominent agencies like the UN, Amnesty International or Green Peace. It’s pretty amazing if you are doing or have done this, but what about the rest of us? What about Krysania, for example, who is working to improve her knowledge of emergencies and disaster preparedness so she can be ready to help others if and when a crisis occurs? Or people like Bobbi who plan canoe trips for youth in the Peel Watershed in Ontario, which needs protection from industry? There are also wonderfully kind people like Tara who believe in small acts of kindness because “sometimes, it is the simple things that can make a difference.” Lucie, one of our giveaway winners, makes the world a better place by simply “allowing people to be who they are.” Truth is, we each change the world in some way – our impact may not span across continents (or maybe it does), but we each unknowingly change someone’s world simply by existing, and that means a great deal.
Whatever your way of giving back and creating impact, start small and start with you. Many of us feel small, overwhelmed, intimidated, or afraid – but we must “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead). Living ethically is a choice, making an impact is a choice, and we make that choice everyday with every. single. decision we take.
So what about you? Are you also passionate about ethical living, responsible business, and giving back? Visit us at www.cambio.market to learn how we’re helping to develop the next generation of conscious consumers. Together, we can have a real and meaningful impact.
Gelaine Santiago: Gelaine, a Filipino-Canadian, is co-founder of ChooseSocial.PH – the go-to resource to learn about the social enterprise scene in the Philippines. She is also co-founder of the social enterprise startup Cambio Market – an online shop for handcrafted, ethical products that give back. She’s pretty nerdy and loves to talk about all things social enterprises, entrepreneurship, travel, start-ups, and food (of course).