Ethical Consumerism

With it being an accepted fact that consumer spending is a driving force behind the US economy, as we head into the festive season, retailers are no doubt hopeful that consumers will ease the negative impact of the economic crisis that has held the country in its grip all year. However, as consumers continue to grapple with job losses and pay cuts, which have led many to lose their homes and other assets, they have been forced to trim down their shopping lists and redefine what they may have viewed as necessities in the past. This redefining may very well also have a negative impact on ethical consumerism, a practice which is also referred to as ethical purchasing, ethical consumption, green consumerism and moral purchasing.

Ethical consumerism covers a multitude of factors and means different things to different people, but it is generally seen as buying products that have been manufactured without harming or exploiting humans, animals and/or the environment. The majority of ethical consumers base their purchasing decisions on a deep moral belief in doing no harm, and in their own way making a difference by buying green products wherever possible, thereby passively or actively boycotting products that do not meet certain standards.

Companies that are promoted as being environmentally-friendly are often in a position to charge the consumer more for their product or service because of lack of competition. Also, meeting certain environmentally sound standards could result in higher production costs, which in turn pushes up the price of the product. Nevertheless, green brands are a growing trend, with statistics from the Mintel global database revealing that in 2002 the food and beverage industry launched 5 green brand products, whereas in 2007 the number had risen to 328.

While some ethical consumers may join an association of sorts to boycott companies that, in their opinion, violate certain principles, it has been shown that positive buying can be very effective. In positive buying, the consumer supports progressive companies that are promoting principles such as fair trade, cruelty free and organic products, recycled and re-used products, and products which are produced locally. Products falling into any of these categories will make it known on their packaging, leaving ethical consumers in no doubt that they are buying a product in line with their principles.