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Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love
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Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love

2.88  ·  Rating Details ·  255 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
“Hawthorne gives readers an impartial picture of the difficulties of running a profitable company while trying to maintain a positive corporate belief system…Highly recommended.”—Library Journal, starred review

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 c
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published June 19th 2012 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Jan 08, 2015 Renata rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, grownup
I saw this on the list of the library's new ebooks and I was excited to read it because I'm pretty interested in consuming ethically. Presumably anyone who picks up this book would already be interested in these issues, but it's written to a... less educated consumer audience? Does that make me a snob? Whatever, like, fucking duh you should bring your own mug to coffee shops. It did have some interesting insights about the companies it was evaluating. Also, I was surprised by how lenient it was ...more
Jul 01, 2012 Amy rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2012
While somewhat interesting reading about the various companies, this book drove me nuts with too many conflicting viewpoints. Like pointing out that Apple's high price tags discriminate against low-income people, but also pointing out where wages should be higher. The two issues go hand-in-hand.

Also questioning: "...Trader Joe's has created a false demand for unnecessary consumption. Isn't that socially irresponsible?"

Also have to mention the author's belief that any company that is socially res
Aug 06, 2013 xq rated it it was ok
i liked the concept behind this book, but wasn't super into all the companies she chose. Trader Joe's and Tom's of Maine were the ones that interested me most; feel like I already knew a lot about Apple, Starbucks and American Apparel. Skipped half the chapter on Timberland, cuz meh.
Jun 03, 2014 BowbytheBay rated it liked it
Interesting, but this already short book could have been a lot shorter. The author seems to drag it out way more than necessary. For instance, I read more often than I would have liked "I'll address that later in the chapter."

Also, the conclusions are nothing revelatory.
Jan 25, 2015 Michaela rated it liked it
Skimmed only. Final conclusion, companies don't mean to be "evil" but sometimes are, but often not on all fronts. And the unifying theme is all corporations rate poorly on their reaction to unions. Go figure.
Katharine Rudzitis
Nov 19, 2014 Katharine Rudzitis rated it liked it
A fun and interesting read, but it leaves you wanting more. I'd enjoy reading a second edition in a few years, with new companies.
Sierra Sumner
The author tries to explores an ideal company: being socially and economically responsible, but also popular and chic.
Sep 22, 2014 Angela rated it it was ok
interesting but not a must read
Aug 22, 2012 Christina rated it really liked it
Ethical chic exposes the dirty little secrets of six beloved companies: Tom's of Maine, Timberland, Starbucks, Trader Joe's, Apple and American Apparel. By far, American Apparel is the worst contender to be crowned hardly ethical in reality, and its fiscal management is hardly sane either.

Starbucks gets excoriated because most people take their coffee to go and the paper cups aren't recycled plus there's no option of being served their coffee in a ceramic mug if you're dining in one of their sto
Oct 28, 2012 Jessica rated it it was ok
The main reason I picked up this book was because it had a chapter on Trader Joe's. While I know lots of people who RAVE about Trader Joe's I think they are mainly hype and not the perfect place to buy food. But, I decided to read the whole book since the author was going to look at 6 companies to see if they live up to their hype. Overall, the book was OK. In some of the chapters there was a LOT of detail and information, but I felt like some of the chapters left you wanted to know more. It was ...more
May 28, 2016 genna rated it really liked it
Worth a read. Some of the evidence is outdated, and therefore some of the conclusions could use a second look - especially now that American Apparel has dumped Dov Charney - but this book raises important questions about how we consume, and how no company can tick all the boxes related to ethics. As consumers we have to choose our battles to some extent, but the choosing makes us more conscientious.
I was interested in this book since I often wonder about companies that market themselves in certain light but are far from what they seem. I also was interested in some of the independent, organic companies being bought out by large corporations and seeing if it really changes them.

The author covers Toms of Maine, Timberland, Starbucks, Apple, Trader Joe and American Apparel. She examines if they are socially and environmentally responsible, how they treat their employees, union or nonunion an
Apr 14, 2013 Naomi rated it really liked it
Shelves: ethics, business
The biggest issues in determining whether companies are ethical are: which criteria one is using (what ethics matter most in your assessment), corporate transparency, and our individual attachment to the company being rated. Big points to Fran Hawthorne for trying to name the good as well as the bad in the six companies she profiles. I still found her skewing a bit to the negative, but I don't want to underestimate the enormity of the job in writing these profiles.

Readers will want to discuss w
Erin Stillion
Jul 20, 2013 Erin Stillion rated it liked it
The concept of the book is good. I found it overloaded on information in some respects, and leaving me wanting to know some more information in others. I didn't actually finish the entire book, pretty much ended up skipping to the summaries to get the author's take at the end of the chapters.

I am not in agreement with her assertion that a non-unionized workforce cannot be part of a completely ethical company. To the contrary, I would argue that a workforce and employer that can reach an agreemen
Aug 10, 2012 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed, nook
I really enjoyed this book! It's breezy style makes it very readable and the subject matter is important enough that it shouldn't be limited to B-School types. Who hasn't tried to balance the concerns for social responsiblitiy and ethical policies with price, quality and accessibility? It's nearly impossible for the average consumer to know what to believe when it's in the best interest of businesses to hype themselves as "green" and "family friendly" workplaces. In the end, the results are stil ...more
Indah Threez Lestari
422 - 2014

Hmm... mungkin secara bawah sadar kita bisa tahu something's not right dari perusahaan dan brand tertentu dan cenderung menghindarinya?

*bukan hardcore fan dari starbucks dan apple*
Jul 19, 2012 Kristy rated it liked it
I enjoyed the read, but would have found it more interesting if the author had included chapters on other companies that she opted to exclude from her work. She gives a verdict as to whether or not the companies she discusses have earned their ethical reputations at the end of each chapter, but seems to be reluctant to highlight any company as an example of a truly ethical company. Do any exist? I also believe that Hawthorne skimmed the surface of the issues that she presents. Her book weighs in ...more
Oct 16, 2012 Abby rated it it was ok
Fran Hawthorne takes a look at several popular companies: Tom's of Maine, Starbucks, Apple, Trader Joe's, Timberland, and American Apparel, all of which promote and trade off their ethical business models. Hawthorne explores beyond the standard questions of eco-friendliness, hiring practices, animal testing, etc. to political activeness, pricing for accessibility, and community leadership. This is not an exhaustive look at corporations touting social consciousness, but it does give insight to so ...more
Feb 15, 2013 Regina rated it liked it
I liked this book. The author investigated six companies who have either self-promoted or gained a reputation as "ethical". The introduction explains her ratings system, and then each company gets a chapter describing the company's history and how they got their reputation as "ethical". Very interesting reading, and very accurate description of the modern consumer. It was a little slow at times (especially through a couple of the companies that I was less interested in), but it gave me some idea ...more
Jan 30, 2013 Annie rated it really liked it
This was a pretty good read. It was good to know a little more about some of these companies even though I felt kind of bummed near the end of the book.

I think that some of the chapters had some misleading information, for example, Foxconn does not have armed guards.

Clear writing, easy to understand. I'm not going to hate on Hawthorne too much for the Foxconn mistake as it's one that several journalists have made. It did make me question some of the oth
I really only checked this out to read about Starbucks since I am obsessed with their coffee...
I was disappointed that the book seemed to be regurgitated facts from other researchers' work. I was also surprised to read that the author seemed to consider experiences on the west and east coast to be snapshots of the country as a whole. Baristas in New York and California weren't as talkative? Really?!? How about spending some time in the Midwest or the South?
Overall, a reader could get the gist of
Mar 11, 2013 Beth rated it really liked it
This book is a discussion of what exactly makes a company ethical- or socially responsible. Is it how they treat their employees? Their effect on the environment? Where they get their raw materials? Overall, this book gave me a lot more questions than answers, but they are questions that I think more people should be asking about what there are buying, eating, and supporting. The book was very well researched and highly readable, but if you are looking for definitive answers about what to buy an ...more
Bebe (Sarah) Brechner
Aug 18, 2012 Bebe (Sarah) Brechner rated it it was ok
Very disappointing. While I certainly agree with the exposure of business practices from companies we think are above the fray, the author is just too flippant to take seriously. For instance, when discussing Starbucks author-worker Michael Gills, she states that in his memoir of working at Starbucks, he reported that he 'hobnobbed with Jackie Kennedy, Ernest Hemingway, and Queen Elizabeth. (Really. Or so he says.)" --what kind of statement is that? This is supposed to be a serious business book ...more
Annie Oosterwyk
This was a very easy-to-read expose of some companies with a reputation for social responsibility. The lesson I took away from this book is that nothing is ever black or white, especially where money is concerned. The emotional nature of branding is what really makes us put our money down, despite information we may learn that is in opposition with our values. I do appreciate the research that went into this book and the interesting information kept me reading (and sharing as I read).
Sep 09, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
This is an interesting read for people who want to know the companies they buy from. I liked reading about the specific companies Hawthorne analyzes from a corporate social responsibility standpoint, like Tom's of Maine and Apple, but more than that, it was helpful to me to see the methods she used to do these analyses. Specifically, I liked seeing what areas she concentrated on and how, and which organizations she depended on for input and ratings, like Climate Counts and labor organizations.
Jun 29, 2013 Gwen rated it it was ok
Recommended to Gwen by: Harvard Bookstore, 4.1.2013
A decent compilation of research but there's nothing groundbreaking here. If you've been reading, even haphazardly, about these companies (Tom's of Maine, American Apparel, Trader Joe's, Timberland, Apple, and Starbucks) and their business practices, you've essentially already read Hawthorne's work.

I knew less about Timberland than the other five companies, so Hawthorne's book was helpful in that regard, but just about everything else I'd read before.
Apr 30, 2013 Jessica rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting, but had higher expectations for it. It basically chose a few companies to profile and then broke them down in terms of their business practices' ethicality. I found this helpful if you promote and/or are interested in those companies. I just wish there had been more that broadly examined ethics so that you could apply those strategies towards any company. Still fairly worthwhile, given that it was a quick read!
Aug 22, 2012 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I kind of skimmed through this book. It wasn't that it was badly written or anything, it just got a little boring. Too technical for me, I felt like I was back in college taking a business course. I may still go back and read about the companies. I was mostly interested in Tom's of Maine, because we use that product because of the "natural" ingredients etc.
Gwendalyn McHugh
Aug 08, 2012 Gwendalyn McHugh rated it really liked it

I liked this book a lot & it's all companies I use, except American apparel (more style choice than business practices). It make me feel a little better about the duality I feel about trying to be socially responsible in my own life and the balancing act it is & accepting that no person or company is all good or all bad.

Would definitely recommend.
Apr 28, 2013 Starr rated it liked it
Worth reading to learn the history of Starbucks, Trader Joe's, American Apparel, Tom's of Main, Apple, and Timberland. You'll get a feel for whether their awesome reputations line up with the facts.

My only beef is that perhaps the criteria for judging reputations could have been tighter and less open, but really, is there such a thing as pure objectivity? Nah.
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For more than 20 years, Fran Hawthorne has followed the rise of 401(k) plans, the fall of old-fashioned pensions, and the ins and outs of Wall Street's dance with Washington, as an editor and writer at Fortune, BusinessWeek, and Institutional Investor magazine (where she's now a senior contributing editor). She is the author of three books on health care and investing, including Inside the FDA: Th ...more
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“In this age of consumer activism, pinpoint marketing, and unlimited and immediate information, we want the impossible: products and producers that will assure us that we are fashionable, and that don’t pollute, harm animals, or contain weird chemicals, that run on alternative energy, pay their workers good salaries, recycle their scraps, use natural ingredients, buy from local suppliers, donate generously to charity, donate in particular to their neighborhoods, and don’t throw their weight around by lobbying. (Or maybe they should lobby for the right causes?)” 1 likes
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