According to Ethical Consumer magazine, an ethical consumer is one who considers issues such as farming methods, environmental sustainability and worker exploitation when making purchases. Ethical consumerism means adopting a different perspective on spending disposable income. Instead of seeing money as a means to buying status, luxury goods or an improved quality of life, an ethical consumer will consider the wider impact of their choices.
According to research by MORI for the Cooperative Bank, roughly 1 in 6 shoppers say they frequently buy or boycott products because of a manufacturer's reputation. In what they call the 30:3 syndrome; a third of consumers profess to care about a companies' policies and records on social responsibility, but ethical products rarely achieve more than a 3 percent market share. Ethical consumers come from all demographics and are highly aware of ethical issues with many ready to put their money where their morals are.
Ethical Consumer magazine states that in the UK, the cheapness of our food, clothing and electrical appliances can make headline news. While it is important to save money, there is always a cost somewhere down the line. Cheap, throwaway electrical goods often end up in landfill sites and chemicals used in their environmentally destructive production penetrate the surrounding soil and contaminate rivers.
Cheap clothing produced in East Asia or Central America is often manufactured in what is commonly known as sweatshops. Workers tend to be poorly paid, work long hours and factory conditions may be dangerous. The UK 2012 Textile Products (labelling and fibre composition) Regulations mean that garments and textiles must be labelled to show the country of origin and fabric content. This can be used to guide the choices of ethical consumers.
The quality of the life of farmed animals is a consideration for ethical consumers. Cheap meat is readily available but may come at the price of the habitat and health of the animal. An ethical consumer may choose free-range eggs over those from caged hens or organic produce rather than chemically fertilised, mass produced foods.
Know More, the community group which aim to raise awareness of ethical issues, recommends positive buying. This means favouring ethical products such as fair trade, cruelty free, organic, recycled, reused or produced locally. They suggest reading labels as a way of validating the product or brand and argue that positive buying is an important option since it directly supports progressive companies.
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