Ethical consumerism – the way to influence big business

by Judith Coulson-Geissmann

I believe in change and the power of consumers when it comes to changing corporate production and manufacturing behaviour. The UK 2018 Ethical Consumer Market Report shows that consumers have increased their spending on ethical products and services, which is remarkable since the retail sales overall fell in 2017. In many sectors, consumers are turning towards more sustainable options as their concern for the environment grows. Green energy grew an impressive 56.3% in 2017. Ethical clothing increased by 19.9% and buying secondhand clothing for environmental reasons increased 22.5%, in a year which saw much media about the environmental impacts of fast fashion. Ethical Food and Drink was also up 16.3% (£ 2.5 billion), the largest increase since 2012, fuelled by growing sales of organic plant-based foods.

Interesting also is the increase of boycotted products and services from any of the following industries for ethical reasons; Food & Drink, Transport and Personal Products (cosmetics and toiletries). It is resulting in an increase of 25% in 2017 and indicating that people are becoming more conscious consumers and are paying more attention to ethical corporate behaviour. I could not find EU numbers for 2018, but the 2017 report showed that the sales of ethical goods and services valued at £81.3 billion. Ethical Food & Drink saw a 9.7% growth as conventional foods struggled. The value of consumer boycotts bounced back to over £3.5 billion.


The World Fair Trade Organisation states that: “A product being sold by a company known for its commitment to social value had a heavy or very heavy influence on 43% of consumer’s purchasing decisions in a survey encompassing 30,000 consumers in 60 countries. The same survey found that 56% of consumers are willing to pay more for products from these companies. The regional outlook is similarly positive for Asia, with consumers in developing markets (Latin America, Asia, Middle East, and Africa) 23-29% more willing than consumers in developed nations to pay a higher price for sustainable products. Globally, 66% are willing to pay a higher price, up from 50% in 2013. Even if you think that your choices won’t make a difference, they do, and they can encourage others to do the same.

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