The Ethics of Black Friday Marketing: What to consider before participating?
Black Friday marketing, shopping cart on black background

For many people, the end of November marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Thanks to the US, the Friday after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, has become one of the biggest consumer holidays. Even though brands increase their sales and clients get great discounts, Black Friday marketing’s hidden downside is the damage our over-consumption does to the environment. But, like most things in life, it’s all about balance. Let’s dive in, and we’ll explain how you can participate in Black Friday ethically.  

Black Friday in Europe: More Than Just an American Export

First things first, is Black Friday even a big deal in Europe? In short, oui, sí, jah, and yes! What started as an American post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy has leaped across the Atlantic and taken Europe by storm.

According to Salesforce, in 2022, online Black Friday sales reached $65.3 billion globally, while Cyber Monday reached $46.2 billion. 

These numbers keep growing each year, but here’s the twist: consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about sustainability. Due to the outbreak of war zones in Ukraine, Palestine, and Israel and the turbulent state of the economy, people are more aware of their spending, too.

The Environmental Price Tag of Black Friday

Mass production, waste from packaging, and carbon emissions from shipping are just a few of the culprits of the environmental damage that Black Friday and Cyber Monday cause. While our customers’ wallets might be thanking us for those half-price jeans, the environment pays a hefty price. Furthermore, it affects the front-line staff in warehouses and delivery, who are often overworked and underpaid during these busy dates. 

Climate protesters
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 90 percent of people worldwide live in areas impacted by polluted air. 

Balancing The Scales: Ethical Black Friday marketing

Want to be part of the sale season but don’t want to add to the problem? Here’s how:

  • Quality Over Quantity: Encourage buyers to invest in long-lasting products. 
  • Stretch the Sale: Why not distribute deals throughout the week or month instead of cramming everything into a single day? This way, there’s less pressure to produce en masse, and consumers can make more thoughtful decisions.
  • Offset your Carbon Footprint: If you’re a brand, consider investing some of your Black Friday profits in green initiatives.
  • Create a campaign that highlights conscious consumerism and swims against the tide.

Here are a few companies that have rethought their Black Friday marketing campaigns:

  • Asket: Swedish brand Asket has created a tradition to close their website on Black Friday and stop all sales. With their mission to f*** fast fashion, they aim to encourage people to make the most out of the pieces they already own and lower the apparel industry’s environmental impact. 
  • Citizen Wolf: Over the past few years, the Australian brand Citizen Wolf has been shaking things up with their “Black Fridye” event. Their goal? Combat fast fashion. Instead of urging you to buy, buy, buy, they’re encouraging you to refresh your existing wardrobe by dyeing it black. The result? You still get that retail therapy thrill with a 95% smaller carbon footprint.
  • Patagonia: Patagonia took a refreshing spin on the shopping frenzy by creating “Green Friday.” Instead of doing Black Friday marketing, they donated 100% of their profits to environmental charities. Their message? Ditch the shopping and embrace time outdoors with your favorite people.
Asket’s social media post

Take a look in the mirror: Do I Really Need This?

For consumers, this is where the plot thickens. Before you click that enticing “BUY NOW” button, ask yourself: Is this a “must-have” or another trinket soon to be forgotten? If the siren song of consumerism has you in its grasp, pause and think. Will you use this product for a long time? Is it made sustainably? Could you shop second-hand instead? Do you need it, or are you just chasing the dopamine hit of the purchase? 

Black Friday, without the guilt

Black Friday doesn’t have to wear a villain’s cloak. At its heart, it’s a day of opportunity – for both brands and consumers. But as our planet groans under the weight of consumerism, we must consider the consequences of participating. By shopping thoughtfully and ethically and giving back, we can make a change from sweet deals to a better planet without the bitter aftertaste.

Feel free to get in touch with us to discuss Black Friday marketing or anything else that’s on your mind!


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