Episode 7 – Ethical Consumption

Interviewees Christian Barry and Kate McDonald unwind supply chains and consider ethical consumption in a complex world.

Teacher Notes

Content overview

This episode is focussed on the ethical issues arising from our global market economy. There is a particular focus on ethical consumerism as it applies to ‘sweatshop’ industries and products produced cheaply by poorly paid workers in potentially dangerous workplaces. The episode questions where the responsibility should rest for any wrong-doing in a company’s supply chain, and to what extent the consumer of a product is responsible for any wrong-doing which occurred in the products manufacture, transport or sale. It considers the ethics of boycotting products and explores alternative actions through which people can try to act as ethical consumers.

Links to Ethical Capability

• Explore the contested meaning of concepts including freedom, justice, and rights and responsibilities, and the extent they are and should be valued by different individuals and groups (VCECU014)
• Investigate why ethical principles may differ between people and groups, considering the influence of cultural norms, religion, world views and philosophical thought (VCECU015)

• Explore a range of ethical problems and examine the extent to which different positions are related to commonly held ethical concepts and principles, considering the influence of cultural norms, religion, world views and philosophical thought (VCECU020)
• Distinguish between the ethical and non-ethical dimensions of complex issues, including the distinction between ethical and legal issues (VCECU021)
• Investigate how different factors involved in ethical decision-making can be managed by people and groups (VCECD023)

Complementary curricula

VCE Economics (Unit 1)
VCE Food (Unit 2)

7-10 HSIE syllabus (Geography)
HSC Economics
HSC Food Technology

Questions and discussion points

  1. Am I responsible for harm done to persons or animals, without my knowledge, in order to produce the goods which I have purchased?
  2. Should we boycott companies which have proven or repeated cases of mistreating workers or animals?
  3. If a company follows all of the local laws in the country(-ies) where they operate, can I still justify an ethical objection to their (legal) practices?