In France, MPs have voted in favour of an amendment that may ban Black Friday, the popular day when sales and deals drive up post-Thanksgiving consumerism. The proposal for a ban comes amid calls for action to mitigate climate change this year, from figures such as the 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg who initiated the “FridaysForFuture” style of protests, to climate change legislation such as New Zealand’s “Zero Carbon Law”.
Black Friday is being seen by some as a symbol of over-consumption due to which people end up buying products that are not needed, adding to the generation of waste and the subsequent carbon footprint.
Reports have emerged that activists in France are staging Black Friday protests against online retailer Amazon as they blame the service for exacerbating climate change through its rapid delivery services. Amazon introduced the concept of Black Friday sales to European markets.
In France, various groups of environmental activists such as Extinction Rebellion, Youth for Climate and Attac have planned protests under the slogan, “Block Friday”. Similar protests have been reported from Amazon distribution centres in Germany over pay and working conditions.
The case against Black Friday
The “Stop Black Friday” amendment in France has been proposed as part of an anti-waste Bill, which has been put forward by France’s former environment minister Delphine Batho. It will be debated in the National Assembly next month. The amendment proposes the integration of “Black Friday” advertising as part of “aggressive commercial practices” punishable by imprisonment of up to two years and a fine of Euros 300,000.
According to an analysis published by Figaro Vox, the 2018 edition of Black Friday recorded 50 million transactions in France in a day. “Black Friday acts as a useful but unforgiving revealer of our contradictions: World Consumer Day, a factor of economic growth, purchasing power, but also a record day for CO2 emissions and waste production,” it says.
This report however cautions against blindly criticising those classes of consumers who wait for Black Friday sales and promotions, simply because they do not have an option not to. “It will take some time to find out whether it (protests such as Black Friday) is a symptom of declining consumerism, or the consequence of the rising anemia of middle-class purchasing power,” the analysis says.
What is Black Friday?
Black Friday is a sales weekend that follows Thanksgiving Day and is largely associated with post-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas shopping. On this day, both online and offline stores offer attractive discounts to consumers. It is believed that Black Friday originated in the US, specifically in Philadelphia when in the 1960s police officers complained about one Friday when the streets were congested and clogged with traffic. They called it “Black Friday”. Alternatively, it is believed to symbolise the US gold market crash of 1869.
The retail interpretation of the phrase Black Friday happened in the US in the 1960s. During that time when accounting was done manually, “red” indicated losses and “black” indicated profits. Furthermore, the introduction of the Thanksgiving Day Parade by the US department store Macy’s in 1924, which happened on the Friday after Thanksgiving, strengthened the association between this particular Friday and the commencement of the shopping season. According to Adobe Analytics, in 2018 Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales raked up over $9.9 billion in online sales in the US.
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