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The rise and rise of ethical shopping

Ethical Consumerism

Ethical shopping in Britain continues to grow.

The sales of ethical products have grown faster than those of ordinary products for the 14th year in a row, according to the 2017 Ethical Consumer Markets Report.

Published on 9 December 2017, it refers to 2016 sales (it uses sales data from a range of companies, which increases research time), and shows that some 42 per cent of the British public shopped locally in Britain, spending an estimated £2.7 billion, a 3.2 per cent rise on 2015. The value of boycotts reached an astonishing £2.5 billion.

This is particularly relevant as the holiday season peaks. US discount events, hyperbolically labelled ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’, have been transposed across Europe, with the periods before Christmas and between Christmas and New Year’s Day becoming the busiest spending times in our annual calendars.

While sales figures are celebrated by pundits, Christmas consumerism is not all a reason for good cheer. It has been found to fuel sweatshop labour, for example. As an article published by New Internationalist last year put it, ‘The imagery of cheerful elves making gifts in Santa’s workshop is far from the reality. [...] These “elves” are in fact real, living Chinese workers, forced to work around the clock to churn out millions of products.’

Fortunately, ethical shopping is less fraught and can even help improve lives in distant places.

‘Money is a vote which you can use every time you go shopping,’ says the Ethical Consumer Research Association, the Manchester-based research co-operative behind Ethical Consumer magazine and authors of the Ethical Consumer Market Report, on their website.

‘By using your spending power wisely you can help in the struggle towards a better world.’

The report provides some hope in an overall rather bleak year for politics around the world.

It shows that while conventional foods struggled to maintain sales, ethical food and drink saw a 9.7 per cent growth.

Bicycle sales have grown 5.4 per cent, as more and more people become interested in healthier lifestyles. Green energy also grew 54 per cent.

Sustainably caught fish – one of the star performers of the year – grew by nearly 37 per cent, and is a case in point. Certifying a fishery as sustainable is not simple, and the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) work over 20 years is beginning to bring results. Some 12 per cent of the global marine wild catch is now certified to the MSC Fisheries Standard.

Other elements of this growth can be ascribed to a changing mind set among consumers. A YouGov survey showed that vegetarianism grew 30 per cent this year, a trend that, if maintained, could result in improved conditions for the environment and animals.

New Internationalist is proud to be part of the ethical shopping movement. We don’t just talk about global justice – we put our money where our mouth is when we set up the Ethical Shop in 2015.

Our online shop offers a wide range of sweatshop-free clothes, foodstuffs, books, and other goods, all purchased from small, ecologically sound and fair-trade suppliers.

The Ethical Shop helps to fund our journalism, while also providing an ethical alternative to the public.

If you still need to buy any Christmas presents, consider doing it with us at https://ethical.shop.

More information, and previous versions of the Ethical Consumer Markets Report, are available from www.ethicalconsumer.org/researchhub/ukethicalmarket.aspx

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