Review of 2017


Last updated: December 2017


Ethical Consumer's Review of 2017

Image: Tim Hunt

Co-editor Tim Hunt on some of the key moments from 2017

If 2016 was the year that we saw the world going to hell in a hand basket, 2017 was the year we redoubled our efforts on the fight back.

Our work with Stop Funding Hate has perhaps been one of our most effective and positive contributions to the wider movement. We’ve helped the campaign by researching advertisers in the Mail, Sun and Express, providing them with some additional intelligence on which to base their fantastically successful campaign.

We hope to continue our work with them in 2018, and we have an event focusing on fighting racism through ethical consumption pencilled in for the end of May 2018, so watch this space...


The impact of Donald Trump

Over the channel Trump has proved to be the disaster we imagined he would be. On writing this review, his latest challenge to progressive policies is to remove climate change as a strategic threat to US security, further downgrading its importance on the US agenda.

We entered the debate earlier in the year by writing two reports. The first looked at UK brands of US companies that have actively supported Trump and asked people to boycott those brands.


Image: boycott trump


The second looked at the mixed record of US corporate giants when it came to lobbying on climate change and how divided the corporate community is on this issue. The latter played an important part in our annual conference which asked: can corporate lobbying ever be a force for good?


This year’s stand out issues

There have been two other big issues that have captured the attention of our readers this year. Firstly, corporate takeovers of ethical companies and a shift away from Fairtrade certification of big brands.

On the issue of corporate takeovers, we’ve seen three acquisitions that rocked the ethical market. Firstly in the US, Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market, a more ethical retailer that focused on selling organic and ethically certified foods. In the UK this was followed by the news that Pukka, the ethical tea and herb brand had been sold to Unilver, and then came the announcement that SC Johnson were to take over both Method and Ecover.

The message that we take away from these acquisitions is that while it may be disappointing to lose independent ethical brands that are untarnished by the misdeeds of larger companies, it does show that there is a real demand for ethical products and that larger companies are willing to invest in them.


Fairtrade crisis, what crisis?

This year we’ve also seen a couple of big companies dropping the Fairtrade certification scheme. This was most notably Sainsbury’s with their own brand tea, instead opting for a weaker fairly traded scheme that isn't independent. Other companies to drop it included Tesco and Pukka (although the latter have moved to the independently audited Fair for Life standard). The news caused quite a stir as Sainsbury’s had been the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade products. 


Image: Tesco


It is unclear what this means in the long term but our own 2017 Ethical Markets Report showed that Fairtrade sales rose by 2.3% last year which perhaps shows that as many are taking up the scheme as dropping out, but either way, demand from consumers is still high.

What is also clear is that Ethical Consumer will continue to champion this independent ethical accreditation scheme that, over the years, has had a huge impact on labour standards and equalising trade relations.


Thank you to our readers

As ever thanks for your continued support. It wouldn’t be possible to bring you our unique analysis and insight if it wasn’t for those of you who subscribe to our magazine and website.





Below we highlight some of our key interventions in 2017:



Ethical Consumer Markets Report


In December we released our annual Ethical Consumer Markets report. We found that overall the value of ethical spending grew by 3.2% to £81.3 billion in 2016 (using the the most recent figures available), its highest total so far.


Image: Ethical Markets Report


In many cases, the UK’s ethical spending is shown to be strengthening at the same time as many of its conventional market counterparts have faltered. 

Read our 2017 Ethical Consumer Markets Report >



Lush Spring Prize


In 2017 we organised the inaugeral Lush Spring Prize which rewarded those organisations going beyond sustainability, and who are actively working to regenerate their environment and communities. 




Discover more about the Lush Sping Prize >



Ethical Consumer Conference 2017


In October we held our annual conference, under the title "challenging corporate power in a changing political landscape". We discussed some of the burning issues of the day, including racism, corporate lobbing and the impact of Brexit on consumer markets.



Find presentations and more video from the day on our 2017 conference page >



Journal of Consumer Ethics


Ethical Consumer, in collaboration with colleagues at universities in the UK and overseas, has launched a new journal focusing on ethical consumption.  

Called the Journal of Consumer Ethics, it is open access and available for free to anyone who wants to read it – academic or otherwise.  

Academic journal team

Left to right: Dr Andreas Chatzidakis, Professor Deirdre Shaw, Helen Gorowek and Dr Michal Carrington from the Glasgow seminar series and Journal team.


Issue 2 of the journal is now available to download for free >  


Our research on the National Union of Farmers

In February, we launched our investigstion into the National Union of Famers. Soon after Ethical Consumer began campaigning against the badger cull, it became clear how central the National Farmers' Union (NFU) was to pushing the cull forward. We therefore felt we, and others needed to better understand it, if we were to challenge its agenda more successfully.



One of the striking things about the NFU is the degree to which it appears unconcerned about either scientific evidence or the opinions of the general public. We found that is more an agri-business lobby group than a union. 

Read the findings in full >



Investment in video 


This year we have really began to develop our video content across the site, with a specific focus on adding additional video to our product guide pages. The aim is to present our work in as many formats as possible to improve our reach and appeal to a wider audience.


View our Youtube channel >


Web Highlights

The most viewed pages revealed

Georgina, our web editor, lists some of the most popular pages on the Ethical Consumer website this past year. 

Read More




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Review of 2017