Message: Look Beyond What You See
By Fran Hawthorne
Beacon Press, $25.95, 181 pages
Is Apple really as ethical as it seems? How about Timberland or Starbucks? Journalist Fran Hawthorne set out to investigate the inside story of six companies popularly thought of as hip and green. Consumers feel good about buying toothpaste not tested on animals and wearing clothes not made in sweatshops, but do Tom’s of Maine and American Apparel live up to their image? Organic is great, but Hawthorne wanted to look beyond Trader Joe’s cheerful signs, and get the scoop on their carbon footprint. What she found out about all six companies is alternately fascinating, disappointing, enlightening and discomfiting.
While the premise behind Ethical Chic is intriguing, the execution lacks finesse. The book is technical, with a rather daunting number of people quoted, organizations mentioned and “top-company” lists discussed. What could have been a grand exposé is not much more than a curious behind-the-scenes look at some well-known businesses. The writing is good but uninspired, and tends to wander into the political, particularly the deep political left. For the young (and looking-to-be-chic-and-ethical) crowd, this can be a useful book for becoming a more discerning shopper. Caveat emptor is right.
Reviewed by Andrea Klein
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