Sustainable, Asian-Owned Businesses
April 15, 2021 • 6 min read
With hate crimes against Asian Americans at an all-time high, conversations around how to support the AAPI community have been top of mind. While there are many direct, and impactful ways to help (see list of organizations and charities below), buying from Asian-owned businesses is an easy step you can take, one that helps create more opportunities for financial stability, something that isn’t always fairly proportioned. Small businesses and entrepreneurs have long been regarded as wealth builders who help upkeep our local economies. Buying from BIPOC-owned businesses allows marginalized communities to create meaningful savings, invest in property and the local economy, and create generational wealth.
When it comes to sustainability, our view in the West is disproportionally dominated by a wealthy, white demographic. In actual practice however, BIPOC have been natural stewards of our land and planet for generations, with up-cycling and zero-waste living being an inherent community way of life.
Conversations around cultural appropriation are rising, paralleling the injustices marginalized communities are facing. This is important to keep in mind as we navigate our habits, buying patterns, and interactions with trends. We can’t cherry pick the culture we want to partake in, reaping only the benefits of the current wellness or fashion fad while ignoring the very real biases that are faced by the same cultures that bring us these gifts. This kind of behaviour is harmful, hurtful, and only serves to perpetuate prejudices and inequality.
A good practice to keep in mind when determining whether a brand is actually sustainable, ethical, and conscious of their re-selling of traditional cultural ideas, is to see how they acknowledge (if at all) the roots of the product, instead of just making a profit off of it.
Do they specifically give credit to the culture that the product they’re selling comes from?
Do they provide a history of the tool and how it was originally used before becoming trendy in the West?
Are they uplifting and recognizing the deep cultural importance it holds, or are they attempting to take ownership of it?
Do they donate a percentage of earnings from this product they didn’t invent back into the community it comes from?
We should be supporting a diverse range of small businesses, but even more so if you’re considering purchasing an item that you know (or suspect) comes from Asian (or BIPOC) origins. If that’s the case, try buying from a brand that is actually Asian (or BIPOC) owned. Things to consider are matcha, adaptogens, gua sha, jade rollers, furoshiki wraps, products with yin yang signs on them, Mahjong sets, etc.
Aside from just voting with your dollar, check in with yourself as well. How might you be complicit in perpetuating biases? Do you do your research when you hear of a new product / beauty trend / wellness practice? Do you get in touch with a brand if you feel like they’re not respectfully honouring the origins of a product or practice they’re selling? How can you make a more conscious effort?
Also, supporting local and shopping small isn’t just about trendy brands. Your dollar goes extremely far when you choose to spend your money at local Asian-owned businesses, shops, service centres and organizations. Establishments like these have been long-standing staples in your community, benefiting the local economy in far-reaching ways. Thinking outside of what’s Instagrammable and “on trend” is imperative in creating change in your journey towards conscious consuming.
Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of sustainable, Asian-owned businesses and organizations to support. There are so many others out there, and I will continue to update this list as I hear of them!
You might also like: Sustainable, Black-Owned Businesses
Beauty & Skin
Fashion & Accessories
Food & Drink
Organizations & Charities
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