Last Friday I woke up in my sleeping bag, on the floor of the wharenui (main meeting house) on Wairoa Marae in Tauranga, where I was learning more about the Māori economy, business, and the Treaty of Waitangi.
My key takeaway from my stay was that whereas western businesses’ metric of success is the bottom line, for Māori businesses there are multiple, interwoven goals: social, financial, environmental. You can’t go after one to the detriment of another.
An article about a Black Friday backlash caught my attention a couple of days later. Companies you would categorise as ‘western’ are shutting down their websites and stores for the day to “educate consumers about a better consumption.”
“Hyper-consumerism poses one of the biggest threats to the planet,” says the parent company of beauty brand The Ordinary. Black Friday is not “an earth or consumer-friendly event.”
Not everyone’s on board, of course, with Black Friday still one of the biggest shopping events globally. But it says something that some companies are foregoing the one day that all-but guarantees huge sales figures.
As for me, my no-new-clothes-challenge has forced me to opt out of frenzied clothes buying this Friday. But don’t think that I’m completely immune.
Last week an Instagram advert for my favourite perfume led me to an online discount store. I discovered it sells brands I actually know (not just the ‘made for discounting’ brands you always see in T K Maxx) in styles I actually like (rather than the horrible shapes and fabrics leftover after the sale).
My first thought? ‘I can’t wait for my challenge to be over so I can buy all of this.’
In my head I am totally on board with the idea of massively scaling back on unnecessary consumption. The Māori approach to business has my full support: we absolutely should prioritise social and environmental impact to the same extent as economic impact.
Yet it seems to be taking me a while to catch up with my own rationale. I’m almost a third of the way through my challenge; I’m hopeful that another 248 days of going cold turkey will cure my addiction to bargain hunting. Or at least ensure I factor in the social and environmental cost as well as the one that hits my bank account.