“I don’t care about the protests,” said pensioner Harry Pomerenke, 66, who had come with his wife to purchase Christmas gifts.
The Black Friday lines in front of European stores have grown in recent years, as the U.S. tradition has caught on here after long being ridiculed. This year, Black Friday sales are expected to top prior records in a number of European countries — despite protests across the continent this week.
Prominent climate activist Luisa Neubauer joined scores of protesters in central Berlin on Friday to advocate more environmentally conscious shopping behavior, without “goods produced on the other side of the planet and shipped three times around,” she said. Meanwhile, in Rome, like-minded protesters carried signs that read “Green Friday,” with the word “Black” crossed out.
The backlash against Black Friday was also on full display in France, where more than 200 brands boycotted the sale for environmental reasons. Parliamentary deputies also approved an amendment that would ban Black Friday in the future.
The amendment, approved on Tuesday and attached to a broad anti-waste bill, is still far from becoming law, but the measure exemplified a growing sentiment that sales foster excessive consumerism, which in turn harms the environment. The vote came as environmental activists descended on Amazon facilities across the country. A number of activist groups see Amazon as a symbol of the consumerism they oppose.
“We criticize Amazon for having a destructive policy for the planet, for social conditions, and Black Friday allows this company to achieve exponential revenue,” Sandy Olivar Calvo, a spokeswoman for one of the activist groups, told France’s Le Monde newspaper. (Jeff Bezos, the chief executive and founder of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)
Élisabeth Borne, France’s environment minister, expressed her support for the proposed ban on Black Friday. “We cannot both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and call for a consumer frenzy,” she said, speaking to France’s BFM Television. “Above all, we must consume better.”
“Black Friday uses the legal haze around promotions, but it’s a campaign that’s similar to sales,” Delphine Batho, the parliamentary deputy who spearheaded the anti-Black Friday amendment, told France’s Le Parisien newspaper. “You have to sell stock, advertise. . . . The purpose of the amendment is thus to recognize that this is an aggressive commercial practice.”
Some lawmakers have criticized an outright ban. Bas Eickhout, a Dutch member of the European Parliament for the GreenLeft party, instead advocates providing consumers with more viable alternatives to products traded under environmentally unfriendly conditions.
“Some policymakers [are] suddenly talking about consumer behavior, and it almost feels like [policymakers] are pushing their responsibility aside,” Eickhout said. “We are being steered every day in our consumer behavior — and until now, a lot of those incentives are totally not based on sustainable considerations.”
At the Wustermark outlet mall, such proposals were received with skepticism.
One vendor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak on the record, said she felt that “there are things that would do a lot more for the environment than getting rid of Black Friday.”
But some felt conflicted. “I actually have mixed feelings about [Black Friday],” said Sabina Bertell, 45, a Swedish tourist visiting Berlin. “It’s a materialistic world we’re living in, and you can see it here. A lot of things you don’t need.”
Beck reported from Berlin. McAuley reported from Paris.