Ethical Shopping growing in Popularity says Survey

Posted on 22 August, 2013 by Kirsten Kennedy

British households are still experiencing a squeeze on their incomes despite the upturn in the economy. Low wage increases, the rising cost of food and the still-high rate of inflation mean that sticking to a budget remains a key factor in the weekly shop, with many families struggling to make ends meet.

It may come as something of a surprise, then, to learn that British shoppers have become increasingly dedicated to “ethical” shopping, even if it costs them more money. According to research conducted by market research firm Nielsen, environmentally friendly products are now three times as likely to feature on the shopping lists of the nation than they were in 2011.

A quarter of participants claimed that they would choose a more expensive Fairtrade  or environmentally friendly product over a regular item if the option was available, up from only 8 per cent 17 months ago. This reflects an international trend for environmental awareness, with the number of consumers worldwide choosing eco-friendly produce more than doubling to 46 per cent from only 22 per cent in Spring 2011.

Nielsen’s senior manager of retail services, Mike Watkins, believes that the rise in the number of supermarkets stocking Fairtrade, organic and produce packaged using recycled materials has played a large role in this surge in demand.

He says; “Improved marketing contributes to better awareness and education about such products and helps compensate for any perceived quality trade-off between eco-friendly and standard versions.”

However, it seems that the British public will only choose to pay a certain amount over and above the price of “regular” produce in their bid to aid the environment. Sales of more expensive organic items declined hugely during the recession thanks to a consumer need to save pennies wherever possible.

Although this trend is now reversing somewhat, the organic market has still dipped by 1.5 per cent in the past year according to The Soil Association.

Unfortunately, this dedication to green steps does not seem to extend to other areas of British life. The research, conducted in 58 countries and taking into account the views of 29,000 participants, revealed that only 43 per cent of respondents from the UK are taking active steps in changing their overall impact upon the environment by switching to energy efficient light bulbs, installing solar or wind powered technology or turning off electronic appliances when not in use.

This compares poorly with the international average of 60 per cent, and falls short of the 55 per cent and 52 per cent achieved in France and Germany respectively.

Although this step towards eco-friendly living may be small, it is an indication that the average British consumer is now willing to pay a little extra as a means of protecting the environment. Should this enthusiasm spread from their retail experiences to other areas of their lives, there is a good chance that Britain’s green targets could be met within the next few years.

Given the fact that the overall sale of organic produce has fallen, do you think people simply say what they believe is the right thing when faced with ethical questions like these?

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