Is Providing Ethical Shopping Options for Consumers Worth It?

8 January 2020

In the light of the popular and ever-growing ‘veganuary’ raising awareness over ethical shopping again, we wanted to carry out some research to find out what the public really think about Ethical Shopping. Are companies doing enough? And is it worth a company working harder to promote ethical products and services? Transparency in sales can take more effort and higher costs to produce. Is that cost really worth it for the results?

What Are Some of the Ethical Shopping Issues to Consider?

Price and Availability

Price and availability are often two of the biggest problems faced by consumers when considering shopping ethically. We found that 47% of survey respondents wished there was a wider variety of ethically sourced options available. This had, at times, caused them to purchase something which was not ethically sourced or the label was unclear. As more companies become more ethically-minded and the market for ethical consumerism grows, it is inevitable that a proportion of these people will become satisfied with availability. This will put pressure on those who are lacking in transparency.

While it would be possible to attract people by using other methods, we also found that 66% of people globally would pay more for a sustainable clothing option. This number rose to 77% among the millennial generation. Therefore, it is clear that there is a substantial market for ethical options. With a pattern towards younger people feeling even more strongly about the issue, and booming media coverage surrounding it, we can predict this statistic to significantly grow through 2020. Topical issues support this. For example, Australian fires are currently gathering large media attention. Many believe them to be associated with the climate crisis and want to help by shopping ethically.

Food Waste

The other major issue which sits on the minds of ethical shoppers is waste. In the UK, 1.9 million tonnes of food are wasted each year. 250,000 tones of that is still edible – the equivalent of 650 million meals. The average family throws out around £700 worth of food each year. So despite this, why are there still 8.4 million people in the UK struggling to eat? This is a question which is growing in awareness.

Supermarkets have partnerships with charities for donating food which has not been purchased. However, this can be misleading. The food sent to these charities is non-perishable items. Despite being edible for a day or two longer, a lot is wasted such meat, fruit and vegetables. Often, the food is not properly separated or recycled by the supermarkets. Food breaks down in the wrong way when not properly recycled. If the UK were to all stop wasting food, the CO2 reduction impact would be the equivalent to removing 1 in 4 cars from the roads.

If you are a supplier of food and drink items, this is worth noting. Many less waste activists are bringing the topic of food waste to the forefront of consumers minds. Considering how much you are over-purchasing and how you are disposing of edible items has the potential to attract customers in this way. In 2020, this trend is only set to increase.

Plastics and Packaging

Another way you could promote ethical shopping is ditching the packaging, or at least making it recyclable. We found that 46% of the population feel guilty for the amount of plastic they use. Almost half the population is significant enough that it is important to appeal to them! This goes for all product types.

Reducing the waste supplied may be challenge to a lot of organisations. But with trends for consumers feeling guilty about their waste and plastic usage, it is an important ethical issue to consider. It is important to weigh up the costs/benefits of reducing packaging and plastics, as it can cost significantly more. For example paper straws are 10 times less than plastic straws. Satisfying customers will bring a longer term benefit to your profits and reputation. Big corporations such as McDonald’s are making the switch to care about sustainability, and as this becomes more common place, smaller organisations will need to meet new industry standards.

Does Supplying
Local Products Make a Difference for Ethical Shoppers?

How consumers felt about products manufactured and produced in Britain surprised us. 93% of the British public said they would pay more for this. Also, 77% associated British with high quality. While the British does not always mean ethical, consumers know that there are standards associated with British manufacturing. From quality checks to employee welfare, it is clear both ethical and impartial consumers feel more confident about the purchase. This also has connotations of transparency in purchasing. Importing and exporting goods will always be important for our economy, but it does appear there is a growing trend towards shopping local. Considering this may be one simple way for you to begin supplying to those interested in ethical shopping. This is likely to result in customer satisfaction.

Related to this is the finding that on average, stockists launching a ‘made locally’ campaign found a 55% increase in customer loyalty. There was also a 47% increase in new customer retention. Is customer loyalty is an issue for your business currently? This could help not only those wanting ethical shopping, but also your business. And if it is not an issue to you, think about the impact of an even better customer base! Performance could definitely improve due to a campaign like this. An example is Tatty Devine Jewellery. They gained success by positioning themselves as a British, hand made company. They are also transparent with their supply chains.

Will You Help Encourage Ethical Shopping?

The facts laid out in this article only scratch at some of the relevant and topical issues. Trends are quickly growing in favour of ethical shopping, and organisations must attempt to become more transparent and ethical if they want to stay top of their game. But smaller firms are also getting the opportunity to make an impact by doing things different from bigger corporations.

We firmly believe that making an ethical change in your company will be beneficial. This is in many ways – for customer retention, attraction new customers, or producing the best alternative product for a consumer to name a few. Along with this, it is always important to do what we can to protect the planet, and we encourage every organisation to use their resources to help.

Below are a couple of resources to help you think more about how you can become a more ethical company, and appeal to ethical shoppers.

Case Study: Increasing Transparency and Ethical Shopping in Procurement

Fairwayrock is an industrial marketplace who saw the lack of transparency and unethical behaviour in bigger companies. Through Fairwayrock, procurement becomes quick and transparent. Procurement houses are traditionally renowned for high costs and lengthy processes. This can lead to large scale waste and inefficiency. Fairwayrock simplifies this with an aim of helping industry become more ethical. Buyers can quickly and easily find what they need from hundreds of suppliers and millions of products. Prices are all shown upfront and all products ordered direct from the supplier. This massively reduces waste in both resources and money.

As a result of these actions, they found a high customer retention rate. Industry has a reputation of being wasteful. But this platform has started disrupting this mindset in a positive way, forcing other companies to think about the standard of how things are done.

This is one company making a start at helping ethical behaviour in industry. This case study also demonstrates that regardless of the industry or sector a company is in, it is possible to begin making a difference.

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