Consumers are seeking value in the credit crunch, but latest research reveals they are not compromising on their values. Ethical consumerism is on the increase, despite the credit crunch, and it isn’t as expensive as you think - it may even save you money this Christmas*
As shoppers shift direction and change ranks to patronise discounters such as Aldi and Lidl - who have reporting their fastest growing market share ever this year - the latest research reveals that although consumers have been looking for value in the crunch, they are not prepared to compromise on their values. The last six months saw shoppers’ interest in ethical products (a market that was worth £32.3 billion last year) actually increase.
According to Joanne Denney-Finch, author of the IGD report released this month: “Despite the credit crunch, 17 per cent of shoppers say they bought more Fairtrade products over the last six months, 22 per cent bought more products promising high animal welfare standards and 17 per cent bought more local food.”
For Barry Clavin, author of the Co-operative Bank’s Ethical Consumerism Report, these consumer habits are easy to account for. “The beliefs of shoppers who buy green are deeply embedded. If you care about issues such as fair trade or animal welfare, you are not going to suddenly stop caring to save a few pence. These shoppers will save in other areas before they’ll drop their ethics.”
Yet, for an industry that was just getting a foothold in the market as the crunch started to bite, there are bunch of consumers who may just have a ‘passive’ concern. For these ‘late experimenters’ then things might be a little different. “Those who simply felt guilty after watching a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall programme,” says Clavin, “And opted for a few free-range birds, they might indeed waiver.”
However, one area of ethical shopping to have taken a slight downturn in the crunch is organics - and this trend could be set to continue over Christmas. Although the Soil Association (the leading certification body for organic food) claims a 10 per cent growth for 2008, this is down on the average annual growth of 26 per cent for the last 15 years.
According to Natalie Berg, analyst at Planet Retail and follower of the ethical market, “The issue is that organics have gone mainstream in the past two years but now that disposable income is being squeezed, organics have been one of the first things to get cut from consumers' budgets. I simply can’t see supermarkets selling out of organic turkeys like they did last year.”
But this isn’t to say consumers are dropping organics altogether, they are merely changing tactics. “True organic shoppers are simply becoming smarter,” explains Berg. “By growing their own, or ordering veggie boxes - which generally deliver more value than buying organic in the supermarkets.”
Furthermore, as the cost of fuel rises in the financial crisis we are seeing the price of conventionally farmed food increase at a much faster rate than organic. “Not a lot of people notice, but the price base has narrowed,” Berg says. “Conventional farming uses oil-based fertilisers, so as the price of fuel continues to goes up, so will conventionally grown food.”
Currently for many ethical products there simply isn’t a major price difference anymore. Organic milk and non-organic milk, for example, are currently at their lowest price differential yet. “And for Fairtrade in particular,” says Clavin, “There is no price differential at all for the vast majority of popular products - which are tea, coffee, chocolate and bananas. The consumer can shop ethically without having to pay for that choice - that’s the new world of ethical consumerism that’s evolved over the last few years.”
But Christmas consumption is more than food and drink. On average we spend around £350 a year on gifts - can this be done ethically and affordably too? Berg reckons the predictions for ethical gifts this Christmas are good with "plenty of opportunity’. “Like the incentives for buying Fairtrade, consumers will opt for ethical gifts out of strong social beliefs,” she says.
Now widely acknowledged as chic, ethical products such as fashion, homeware and beauty, can also be as easy on the pocket as high street prices. Vic Morgan, Director of Ethical Superstore which stocks one of the UK’s largest selection of online ethical products, says: “This Christmas we’ve have a range of unique gifts from around the world that are big on ethics but tiny on price. Of over the 4000 ethical products we sell, we have hundreds that are under £10. Many will even help the recipient save money on their energy bill.”
Morgan argues that supporting the ethical industry is more important than ever during such an uncertain global climate: “With the UK government diverting massive sums of money to save its economy at home and putting foreign aid budgets under threat, consumer support of fair trade is one way to help the poor in the developing world, ” he argues.
According to Morgan, savvy consumers know the benefits and are not likely to dump ethics this Christmas, despite the crunch: “They know if they swapped their coffee, sugar or chocolate back to a non-Fairtrade brand, or opted for non-ethical gifts this Christmas, it would be a minor difference to them but a significant and long-term one for a farmer or artisan in the developing world.”
And what more of a joy could there be this Christmas than from doing your bit in a world that has just become a little more unequal? Ethics is now part of the consumer landscape and is not set to go away; not even in the frenzied rush at Christmas.
*Go green and save money this Christmas
Messenger Bag for him:
Christmas crunch beater: From the same designers that bought you ‘those shoes’ donned by David Cameron, this durable canvas messenger bag is made from surplus military tents, recycled bicycle inner tubes and disused car seat belts. Sure to please your man and only £65.
Christmas crunch cringer: A similar canvas bag but not recycled, from Diesel would cost you £75.
Organic shave set for him:
Christmas crunch beater: The well-groomed guy will love this trio of pampering products - pre-shave; shave followed by a cool moisturiser to soothe irritated skin. This organic gift set of godliness is perfect at only £27.
Christmas crunch cringer: A similar range of men’s facial care – but non-organic - from Lab Series at Boots would cost you £60 for the same amount.
Chunky knit beanie for her:
Christmas crunch beater: This autumns’ ‘it’ accessory, the chunky beanie hand knitted in Nepal by Fair Trade group. 100% wool and only £12.
Christmas crunch cringer: A similar chunky knit beanie at Top Shop – but not Fair Trade – would cost you the same. Why would you opt for the non-ethical choice?
Fairtrade Shopper for her:
Christmas crunch beater: You can never have too many bags, and this versatile shopper is one to take with you everywhere. Eye-catching spot design and only £4.50.
Christmas crunch cringer: A simple cotton shopper at Top Shop would cost up to £8 and wouldn’t be Fairtrade.
Image via Ramon
Receive the latest products, offers and news to your Inbox.
Please check your email to confirm your address.
You're already subscribed - try again?
Your own Autumn catalogue, as soon as it's fresh off the press.
We'll send you a shiny new catalogue as soon as we receive them!
© Copyright 2004-2013 Spark Etail Ltd, registered in England & Wales No. 7551349. All rights reserved.
Registered office: Follingsby Avenue, Follingsby Park, Gateshead, NE10 8HQ. For more information see about us or browse our sitemap.