Posted on September 12 2019
Being a conscious consumer is something that we all strive to be and, at times, it can become confusing as to what steps we should take in order to ensure we are making a positive change in the right direction. Enter Jane Mosbacher Morris, Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET and author of Buy the Change You Want to See: Use Your Purchasing Power to Make the World a Better Place (Penguin Random House, January 2019). Jane has devoted her career to creating economic opportunities for vulnerable communities around the world, and in this valuable book, she shares her passion and insights on how we, as consumers, big brands or business owners, can create positive change too. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Jane about her business, her book and her advice for those of us who want to make more ethical and thoughtful purchases but don't know where to start.
ALLY: Tell us about yourself and what prompted you to launch your business, TO THE MARKET?
Jane Mosbacher Morris: I didn’t anticipate working in the retail industry. However, when I was traveling overseas for the U.S. Department of State, I realized that there was incredible untapped ethical production capacity around the world and unmet demand for ethically-made goods.
TO THE MARKET’s focus is to connect these ethical suppliers to larger U.S. companies, so American consumers have easier access to beautifully made products and can support communities that align with their values. Whenever we spend money, we are making a statement about the type of world in which we want to live. If we believe we need more American manufacturing jobs, then let’s buy more American-made products. If we want to support women’s empowerment, then let’s seek out women-owned businesses. By changing the way retail manufacturing is done, TO THE MARKET is creating a better outcome for people, the planet, and better businesses.
ALLY: What inspired you to write your book, Buy the Change You Want to See: Use Your Purchasing Power to Make the World a Better Place (Penguin Random House, January 2019)?
Jane Mosbacher Morris: The reality is that we all spend money every day and I wanted to help people realize that they can vote with their wallet. Capitalism can be a powerful source of good. The book tries to make becoming a more conscientious consumer a little easier with practical steps that feel doable for anyone.
ALLY: If you could only offer one piece of advice to someone who is wanting to make more ethical and thoughtful purchases, but doesn't know where to start, what would it be?
Jane Mosbacher Morris: I know many of us think we are just one person, our financial footprint is limited, or feel like there isn’t much we can do, but every person's purchasing power matters. There are truly inexpensive (and often free ways) to be a more conscientious consumer. To understand what businesses are doing, I recommend starting with one category you care about, whether it's the vegetables you buy or the clothes you wear, and to research different players in that industry. From there, you can pick a handful of businesses that reflect your values and commit to spending your time and money with them. Start with small changes that motivate you to continue this pattern of thoughtfulness. Saying no to unnecessary things you fundamentally don’t need, like extra bags in a grocery store, can also positively impact your community without impacting your wallet at all.
ALLY: We know you have a history of working with women's issues, tell us what have been your struggles or obstacles as a female founder/girl boss?
Jane Mosbacher Morris: I’ve worked in male-dominated industries for most of my life (national security and counterterrorism). That’s okay -- it was a choice I made freely and I loved my time in those fields, but I expected retail to have more female leaders. While women are certainly a massive part of the retail industry (the majority of garment workers are women, the majority of buyers at retail organizations are women, and the majority of consumers are women), the leadership within the industry is mostly male-dominated, from male CEOs of fashion houses to factory owners to investors. I’d like to see that change and am trying to be a part of that.
ALLY: What is one piece of advice you would offer a friend who is thinking about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship?
Jane Mosbacher Morris: Have persistence, and know that entrepreneurship is like pushing a boulder up a mountain. Starting and running a business has unquestionably been the hardest thing I have ever done. Not only does it test your confidence and sense of self on a daily basis, but it also puts you in a position where you are rejected on a pretty frequent basis (if you are an entrepreneur and this isn’t happening, you may need to get out there more!). Most importantly, you have to be your own best advocate, and you have to believe in yourself. If you don’t, no one else will!