Meghan Markle is teaching the world a few lessons in ethical consumerism.
Meghan Markle is teaching the world a few lessons in ethical consumerism. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Members of the British royal family are hardly strangers to making fashion statements. (Hats, anyone?) But its newest member, actress-turned-duchess Meghan Markle, is doing more than trendsetting with her accessory choices.

Discerning fashion eyes have taken notice of her ethically sourced jewels — from bracelets made by sustainable jeweler Bar Jewellery to earrings courtesy of ethically sourced Pippa Small. (Bonus: Both of these do-gooding ventures are women-owned!) Meanwhile, other ensemble-completing pieces come from foundations that aid children in war-torn regions or victims of sex slavery.

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Markle has used her considerable platform to effect positive change in the past. She lent a powerful voice to the issue of menstrual health, highlighting it in her royal biography and encouraging everyone to avoid period shaming. As we’ve reported, the “Markle effect” has given a boost to international menstrual-health organizations, such as Celeste Mergens’s Days for Girls. She has also done humanitarian work with the United Nations, among other philanthropic efforts.

Bar Jewellery founder Sophie McKay says the Duchess of Sussex’s most recent positive example is “making people think about not using plastic and buying less,” and encouraging them to be “more thoughtful in general.”

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Ethical consumerism — the “positive buying” practice that rewards companies with policies that preserve human and animal rights and protect the environment — is becoming increasingly popular around the world, particularly among millennials. Younger shoppers tend to “vote with their brand preferences,” Bob Witeck of public relations firm Witeck Communications told us during our examination of how brands reach out to — or fail to reach out to — transgender consumers.

Research bears this out. Around the world, 66 percent of people were willing to spend more if a brand were demonstrably sustainable — and up to 73 percent of millennials said the same, according to Nielson’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report. And, a whopping 81 percent of that generation expects companies to declare their politics and principles publicly.

Experts suggest that entrepreneurs hoping to appeal to this ever-growing buying bloc should, for starters, embody the principles and standards concerned shoppers want to see. Michaela Mendelsohn, founder of and CEO of Pollo West Corp., told us her chain of restaurants has flourished thanks to its inclusive practices that benefit LGBTQ workers.

“It’s been successful for me, as a business person,” she added, pointing out that it’s “not only the right thing to do ethically, but it’s also good for business.”

Indeed, authenticity is key in making sure your message resonates. So is nuance, noted Carolyn Weiss, a transgender business professional and the founder of Transgender Business Services. She pointed out to us that companies often fall into the trap of “making assumptions that [LGBTQ shoppers are] a homogenous block of consumers.” Instead, she urged them to keep in mind that shoppers are individuals.

Whether you’re selling to Markle or not, this is good advice.

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