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Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love
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Published:
Beacon Press 2012
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Description
How popular companies like Apple and Trader Joe’s project a hip, progressive image—and whether we should believe them

Consumers are told that when they put on an American Apparel t-shirt, leggings, jeans, gold bra, or other item, they look hot. Not only do they look good, but they can also feel good because they are helping US workers earn a decent wage (never mind that some of those female workers have accused their boss of sexual harassment). And when shoppers put on a pair of Timberlands, they feel fashionable and as green as the pine forest they might trek through—that is, until they’re reminded that this green company is in the business of killing cows. But surely even the pickiest, most organic, most politically correct buyers can feel virtuous about purchasing a tube of Tom’s toothpaste, right? After all, with its natural ingredients that have never been tested on animals, this company has a forty-year history of being run by a nice couple from Maine . . . well, ahem, until it was recently bought out by Colgate.
 
It’s difficult to define what makes a company hip and also ethical, but some companies seem to have hit that magic bull’s-eye. In this age of consumer activism, pinpoint marketing, and immediate information, consumers demand everything from the coffee, computer, or toothpaste they buy. They want an affordable, reliable product manufactured by a company that doesn’t pollute, saves energy, treats its workers well, and doesn't hurt animals—oh, and that makes them feel cool when they use it. Companies would love to have that kind of reputation, and a handful seem to have achieved it. But do they deserve their haloes? Can a company make a profit doing so? And how can consumers avoid being tricked by phony marketing?
 
In Ethical Chic, award-winning author Fran Hawthorne uses her business-investigative skills to analyze six favorites: Apple, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, American Apparel, Timberland, and Tom’s of Maine. She attends a Macworld conference and walks on the factory floors of American Apparel. She visits the wooded headquarters of Timberland, speaks to consumers who drive thirty miles to get their pretzels and plantains from Trader Joe’s, and confronts the founders of Tom’s of Maine. More than a how-to guide for daily dilemmas and ethical business practices, Ethical Chic is a blinders-off and nuanced look at the mixed bag of values on sale at companies that project a seemingly progressive image.
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
06/19/2012
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780807000953
ASIN:
B005R8NBF6
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Fran Hawthorne. (2012). Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love. Beacon Press.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Fran Hawthorne. 2012. Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love. Beacon Press.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Fran Hawthorne, Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love. Beacon Press, 2012.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Fran Hawthorne. Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love. Beacon Press, 2012. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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title
Ethical Chic
fullDescription
How popular companies like Apple and Trader Joe’s project a hip, progressive image—and whether we should believe them

Consumers are told that when they put on an American Apparel t-shirt, leggings, jeans, gold bra, or other item, they look hot. Not only do they look good, but they can also feel good because they are helping US workers earn a decent wage (never mind that some of those female workers have accused their boss of sexual harassment). And when shoppers put on a pair of Timberlands, they feel fashionable and as green as the pine forest they might trek through—that is, until they’re reminded that this green company is in the business of killing cows. But surely even the pickiest, most organic, most politically correct buyers can feel virtuous about purchasing a tube of Tom’s toothpaste, right? After all, with its natural ingredients that have never been tested on animals, this company has a forty-year history of being run by a nice couple from Maine . . . well, ahem, until it was recently bought out by Colgate.
 
It’s difficult to define what makes a company hip and also ethical, but some companies seem to have hit that magic bull’s-eye. In this age of consumer activism, pinpoint marketing, and immediate information, consumers demand everything from the coffee, computer, or toothpaste they buy. They want an affordable, reliable product manufactured by a company that doesn’t pollute, saves energy, treats its workers well, and doesn't hurt animals—oh, and that makes them feel cool when they use it. Companies would love to have that kind of reputation, and a handful seem to have achieved it. But do they deserve their haloes? Can a company make a profit doing so? And how can consumers avoid being tricked by phony marketing?
 
In Ethical Chic, award-winning author Fran Hawthorne uses her business-investigative skills to analyze six favorites: Apple, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, American Apparel, Timberland, and Tom’s of Maine. She attends a Macworld conference and walks on the factory floors of American Apparel. She visits the wooded headquarters of Timberland, speaks to consumers who drive thirty miles to get their pretzels and plantains from Trader Joe’s, and confronts the founders of Tom’s of Maine. More than a how-to guide for daily dilemmas and ethical business practices, Ethical Chic is a blinders-off and nuanced look at the mixed bag of values on sale at companies that project a seemingly progressive image.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews
      • content: "Hawthorne's research provides clear, rational insights into our ethical choices, empowering us to be savvy shoppers."
      • premium: False
      • source: Michael Blanding, author of The Coke Machine
      • content: "Ethical Chic will change the way you see the products lining the supermarket shelves, and even maybe the supermarket itself."
      • premium: False
      • source: John Rodzvilla, Library Journal, starred review
      • content: "Highly recommended."
      • premium: False
      • source: Adam Lashinsky, author of Inside Apple
      • content: "Fran Hawthorne's illuminating book will delight fans of 'corporate social responsibility'--and enrage its critics. Her descriptions of Apple, for example, at once beloved and much criticized by the CSR crowd, aptly captures the essence of the debate."
      • premium: False
      • source: Daniel C. Esty, co-author of Green to Gold
      • content: "In assessing corporate performance on social responsibility, Fran Hawthorne digs beneath the surface of some of America's most beloved companies. Given the multiple dimensions of sustainability and ethical performance, it can come as no surprise that she finds no company is perfect. But there are differences. Bravo to Ethical Chic for helping to illuminate which companies are on the right track."
      • premium: False
      • source: Booklist
      • content: "A very informative look."
      • premium: False
      • source: Sally Greenberg, executive director, National Consumers League
      • content: "Ethical Chic is a lively and engaging look at the environmental, labor, and social practices of six legendary US companies. It's a must-read for any consumer interested in spending their money in socially conscious ways."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        February 20, 2012
        Joining the backlash against corporate social responsibility, journalist Hawthorne (Inside the FDA) evaluates six companies (Tom’s of Maine, Timberland, Starbucks, Apple, Trader Joe’s, and American Apparel) that have built brands around goodness, and asks: “Do they deserve their haloes?” In reviewing the impact of these companies on the environment, treatment of workers, and public service, Hawthorne’s methodology is mainly qualitative, based on interviews with company representatives, union leaders, and staff at various watchdog organizations. One of her biggest criticisms is the price premium some companies can command in the marketplace. Here Hawthorne’s argument is inconsistent, as when she criticizes American Apparel for nearly going bankrupt (“It might seem that a key requirement for a socially responsible company would be... to stay in business”) while also accusing Starbucks of overpricing coffee (“it is socially irresponsible for Starbucks to claim the ethical mantle while pricing out people who can’t afford its wares”). No one expects the author to resolve such conundrums; however, these pronouncements, set alongside attempts to maintain journalistic objectivity, make for a confusing read. Agent: Lauren E. Abramo, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        May 15, 2012
        Brands popular both for their social currency and image of social responsibility go under journalist Hawthorne's (The Overloaded Liberal: Shopping, Investing, Parenting, and Other Daily Dilemmas in an Age of Political Activism, 2010, etc.) microscope in this exploration of how closely the ethical words match up to corporate actions. In today's consumer world, advertising, publicity and marketing are mostly geared toward drawing customers to the brand, rather than pushing the product. Akin to social media, where people connect via shared interests, today's best-known brands seek to create communities based on shared product appreciation. One of the common elements companies seek to build these communities around is an ethical approach to business. Caretaking of the environment, fair treatment of workers and a focus on "doing the right thing" are as important as the profit margins. Hawthorne turns an optimistic-but-skeptical eye on a half-dozen companies to dig past the marketing hyperbole and explore actual practices. The companies--Apple, Starbucks, Trader Joe's, American Apparel, Timberland and Tom's of Maine--all purport to carry that best-case combination of ethical practices and "cool products." In reality, however, they all make significant concessions in pursuit of growing profits. Hawthorne wisely avoids taking a staunch green-or-not approach, instead taking into account the various complexities and realities of doing business in a world that doesn't always provide the infrastructure necessary to make a purely ethical business decision. The author ably explains the standards by which the industries police themselves and the different layers of whitewash and how they're applied to some egregiously unethical policies. She also acknowledges that a company's ethical practices, while increasingly important to younger consumers, are still far from being make-or-break factors for these entrenched status brands. American Apparel still runs ads designed to titillate; Tom's of Maine is now owned by Colgate. Hawthorne's research provides clear, rational insights into our ethical choices, empowering us to be savvy shoppers.

        COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from May 1, 2012

        Journalist Hawthorne (The Overloaded Liberal: Shopping, Investing, Parenting, and Other Daily Dilemmas in an Age of Political Activism) analyzes six companies that have a reputation of being hip, ethical, and socially responsible: Tom's of Maine, Timberland, Starbucks, Apple, Trader Joe's, and American Apparel. Hawthorne draws from interviews as well as corporate reports to present a case study of each company's level of social responsibility and evaluates whether or not they deserve their reputation for being ethically hip. While other titles, most notably Gary Hirshberg's Stirring It Up, Bo Burlingham's Small Giants, and Jeffrey Hollender's What Matters Most, cover similar ground, Hawthorne's inquiry is more comprehensive, examining each company's record on environmental impact, human rights, working conditions, cost of the product to the consumer, and relationship with corporate owners. VERDICT Instead of writing hagiographies of well-known, socially active companies, Hawthorne gives readers an impartial picture of the difficulties of running a profitable company while trying to maintain a positive corporate belief system. This will appeal to the socially conscious consumer interested in how companies struggle to balance their beliefs with practical concerns. Highly recommended.--John Rodzvilla, Emerson Coll., Boston

        Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        May 1, 2012
        Hawthorne, financial journalist and editor, sets out to determine if a company can be trendy yet socially responsible. Can it be popular yet trustworthy? She selects six companies to put to the test (American Apparel, Apple, Starbucks, Timberland, Tom's of Maine, and Trader Joe's) and explores issues for each, including energy efficiency, recycling, hiring practices, pricing strategies, and animal treatment. A company can create a false image of social responsibility through marketing hype, as this responsibility is now central to many companies' brands. Yet the author contends that the web is helpful in exposing damaging incidents of irresponsibility, such as polluting and operating sweatshops, because an observer with a smart phone and camera can promptly record the incident and post it on the Internet. Hawthorne concludes, The best way to judge whether to trust a corporate image is to remember that these companies are out to make a buck, and they will be most likely to go green, humane, and squishy if it makes business sense. A very informative look.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

popularity
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shortDescription
How popular companies like Apple and Trader Joe’s project a hip, progressive image—and whether we should believe them

Consumers are told that when they put on an American Apparel t-shirt, leggings, jeans, gold bra, or other item, they look hot. Not only do they look good, but they can also feel good because they are helping US workers earn a decent wage (never mind that some of those female workers have accused their boss of sexual harassment). And when shoppers put on a pair of Timberlands, they feel fashionable and as green as the pine forest they might trek through—that is, until they’re reminded that this green company is in the business of killing cows. But surely even the pickiest, most organic, most politically correct buyers can feel virtuous about purchasing a tube of Tom’s toothpaste, right? After all, with its natural ingredients that have never been tested on animals, this company has a forty-year history of being...
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