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Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love Hardcover – June 19, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Hawthorne's research provides clear, rational insights into our ethical choices, empowering us to be savvy shoppers.”—Kirkus Reviews

Ethical Chic will change the way you see the products lining the supermarket shelves, and even maybe the supermarket itself.” —Michael Blanding, author of The Coke Machine
 
“Highly recommended.”—John Rodzvilla, Library Journal, starred review

“Fran Hawthorne’s illuminating book will delight fans of 'corporate social responsibility'—and enrage its critics. Her descriptions of Apple, for example, at once beloved and much criticized by the CSR crowd, aptly captures the essence of the debate.”—Adam Lashinsky, author of Inside Apple

“In assessing corporate performance on social responsibility, Fran Hawthorne digs beneath the surface of some of America’s most beloved companies. Given the multiple dimensions of sustainability and ethical performance, it can come as no surprise that she finds no company is perfect. But there are differences. Bravo to Ethical Chic for helping to illuminate which companies are on the right track.”—Daniel C. Esty, co-author of Green to Gold

“A very informative look.”—Booklist

Ethical Chic is a lively and engaging look at the environmental, labor, and social practices of six legendary US companies. It’s a must-read for any consumer interested in spending their money in socially conscious ways.”—Sally Greenberg, executive director, National Consumers League
 

About the Author

Award-winning journalist Fran Hawthorne has been a writer or editor at For­tune, BusinessWeek, Institutional Investor, and other publications. She is the author of four other books, including Inside the FDA, Pension Dumping, and The Overloaded Liberal. She lives with her family in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807000949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807000946
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,403,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Award-winning journalist Fran Hawthorne, the author of "Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies we Think We Love" (Beacon Press, 2012), has been a writer or editor at Fortune, BusinessWeek, Institutional Investor, and other publications. She is the author of three books on health care and investing, including Inside the FDA and Pension Dumping.

Photographer Copyright Credit Name: Leonard Yakir, 2012.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. P. Anderson on October 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Okay, admit it. You're a die-hard Apple, or Starbucks, or Trader Joe's, or whatever fan. You love the product and also like that smug feeling you get from shopping at someplace that has a reputation for being pretty progressive. Here's the thing ... Is that place really as cool and hip as it appears to be?

Hawthorne looks at several favorite retailers - the above 3, Timberland, American Apparel, Tom's of Maine, and a couple of others. She looks at them in a number of different dimensions - how they treat their employees, how they treat the environment, how they interact with their community, how much they share about themselves, and more. She does a great job of really getting into the specifics and also really telling a good story. Did you know, for example, that Trader Joe's is owned by two very secretive (I'm talking Howard Hughes style here) German billionaire brothers? Or that Tom's of Maine is owned by Colgate and sold at Walmart?

Personally, I always think every corporation is in it to make money, and any kind of "aura" they have otherwise is just a function of marketing. Nice to know that that pretty much applies across the board.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Barbara on August 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Ethical Chic is a must-read for the discerning consumer because it gets behind the facade of our assumptions about some major companies. For instance, I always assumed Trader Joe's was organic because ... well, when you look into it, as Ethical Chic does, there was no reason beyond its cute image. Fran Hawthorne analyzes how TJ has promoted the phony image of being a neighborhood store (did you know it was owned by a German conglomerate?) and item by item, just how much really is organic.What a provocative, informative (and fun-to-read) eye opener!
The book is also so well written that it's a pleasure to read. I was hooked from the first chapter, with its novelistic description of the Tom of Tom's of Maine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carol Pierson Holding on September 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Full disclosure: Fran Hawthorne interviewed me for this book, so I may be biased. But I was hooked from the opening salvo, two descriptions of corporate behavior at the opposite extremes of social responsibility - and it's the same company. Her question is an important one in this era of complex social issues: is it possible for a company to be trendy and socially responsible too? What I appreciated was her willingness to share her processes for selecting the six companies she studies and for determining "the reality" of each at the end. What I loved was her skill in telling good tales -- from details about the sex life of one CEO to the deeply spiritual life of another -- combined with command of how business works and arcane facts (who knew the detailed process for tanning leather?) In the end, the author questions the whole exercise in light of the biggest driver of all the ills CSR is intended to counter: the basic philosophy of consumerism. But where she comes out is that there are many discreet issues that companies can tackle "one acre of rainforest at a time," whether or not they're deemed socially responsible overall. A great addition to the CSR canon - and a fun read too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Harrigan on September 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at groovy-seeming companies that make us feel good about ourselves by buying their products. Hawthorne is an unflagging investigative reporter whose refreshingly unbiased accounts help us become informed consumers and citizens. It's so difficult to sort through the hype, but luckily this book does it for us. When you read about "mulesing," you will never want to buy merino wool again. And you might rethink how "green" Apple really is, despite the fact that its name sounds so natural and Al Gore sits on its board. The stories about how the companies were founded and how they treat their employees (including paid leave for volunteer activities) might surprise you as much the companies efforts (or lack thereof) to conserve the environment. Think you know what you're buying and who you're buying from? Think again.
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Format: Paperback
I just finished reading Ethical Chic and really enjoyed it. I checked out the Kindle edition from my local library. This book makes a decent case study out of six different companies: Tom's of Maine, Timberland, Starbucks, Apple, Trader Joe's and American Apparel. I choose to read this book based on the title and was ultimately very pleased. The issues and topics discussed in this book are interesting in helping to determine, what makes a company ethical and whether an ethical company really can be 'cool'.

Ethical Chic explores the ideas of corporate social responsibility and how we, as consumers, can try to objectively rule whether a particular company is, or is not ethically responsible. I have heard of all of the companies in this book before, but I most enjoyed the chapters on Tom's of Maine, Timberland, and Trader Joe's because I have not studied these companies as in-depth before. I enjoyed the American Apparel section in that it went into more detail on a company I've only heard `bad things' about.

I found the book to be presented very objectively and found the evaluations to be fairly researched. After finishing the book, I somewhat wished the author had chosen different case study companies. Starbucks and Apple are beaten to death with so many books strictly dedicated to the respective companies. Perhaps in a future edition we'll see the author explore a few of the companies that were cut from this edition that are not as widely published and known about.
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