Mar/Apr 2017

Readers' Letters


from Ethical Consumer Issue 165, March/April 2017


 EC164 coverBoycott palm oil or not?
I do not understand why Ethical Consumer is advising readers to choose palm oil-free products. NGOs concerned about the impacts of palm oil do not encourage blanket boycotts of products containing palm oil. Instead, they advise consumers to demand deforestation-free, conflict-free, peat-free Certified Sustainable Palm Oil, as verified against the Charter of the Palm Oil Innovation Group: My organisation, Orangutan Land Trust are members of POIG, along with Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and others. Promoting palm oil-free can have perverse outcomes, as this article explains.

Please do consult some of the organisations working daily on this issue so that you can better understand the complexity of the situation and where practical and effective solutions lie.

Michelle Desilets,
Orangutan Land Trust


Seeking Palm Oil Clarity
Admittedly, I have only read the two articles once but, so far, I’m dismayed at the unclear message you are sending out about the use of palm oil. Since natural rainforests are often burnt down to create more palm plantations, surely the message should be equally clear and unambiguous.  No points system is going to hold the public’s interest nor is a complicated list of different degrees of good or bad. If you create a product such as chocolate, which didn’t used to contain palm oil, then this needs to be brought to the public’s attention.

A simple message: stop buying chocolate with palm oil in it. Chocolate manufacturers began this practice to increase profit and lower cost, and they will continue until the social media cost becomes too high. So far, the opposition has been fragmented and disorganised so there is no simple strong message that can galvanise the public.

If a campaign was just about chocolate to begin with, that is a winnable campaign because there are plenty of small chocolate producers who don’t use palm oil and the big boys would have to follow suit.
Kevin Ashton, by email

Ed: We state on our website: “We are urging readers to boycott products from companies that aren’t using 100% responsibly sourced palm oil now. Promising to source responsibly in the future is no longer good enough. You may also choose to avoid products containing any palm oil, whether it be sustainably sourced or not.”


Home delivery ethics
I agree that helps local bookshops (as featured in your Jan/Feb 2017 issue). But I was shocked to have my parcel delivered by YODEL which is owned by the Barclay Brothers: owner of the Daily Telegraph and great tax avoiders.
Oh dear. Such complications!

Eric Walker, by email


Home delivery concerns
I am becoming increasingly concerned about having purchases delivered to my home. It is all very well buying ethical products, e.g. seeds, cosmetics, cleaning materials, etc., but if the delivery drivers are paid badly or drive diesel vehicles or break the law to achieve their delivery targets this negates the value of the ethical product.

In my retirement years, I have started to teach children cycling as a Bikeability instructor. In this capacity, I spend much time on quiet residential roads. A common hazard to deal with is the delivery vehicle and driver. You see it all, and poor driver behaviour is an issue.  Has any work been done on this? Which company offers the most ethical delivery service?  I know that I could go to local shops and avoid any delivery, but some ethical products are not sold locally.

Posted in our Forums by Katrin Sarah

Ed: We’ve discussed delivery companies in a recent editorial meeting and are scoping up a possible feature on the issue. As you rightly say there are a number of issues at play here from workers’ rights to emissions and tax avoidance.



Phone company woes?

Your story description about The People’s Operator (Jan/Feb 2017 issue of Ethical Consumer) contains false information. The company has never donated any portion of profits to charity, because the company has never been profitable. You do readers a disservice by even mentioning the company to them as an option.

Gregory Kohs, by email


Speaking up for the smartphone free

I do not own, nor shall I ever purchase, a smartphone. They are ethically unsound and surveillance friendly. Please do not assume that everyone does. However, thank you for attempting to spread awareness of ethical consumerism.

May Ayres, by email


Extending shaver life
I was surprised when reading your article on shaving in EC164 that you didn’t mention the Razorpit. This fairly inexpensive silicon device radically extends the life of razor blades, saving money and reducing the number of blades you throw away.  My partner bought one some years ago and has found that each blade lasts around 5 times longer, even with daily shaving. He also used to use shaving foam, but found that it really wasn’t necessary, just a bit of soap works fine (after a shower – if you shave at another time a hot flannel would have the same softening effect on the bristles).

Gemma Woolrych, by email



Banking for small charities
Your guide to ethical finance in the July/Aug 2016 issue of EC was very helpful in identifying potential places to open a charity account. Small not-for-profit groups still favour using a high-street bank over online alternatives, but options are very limited. I was told by Nationwide and Yorkshire Building Society that they had stopped charity accounts last year. Skipton Building Society saved the day as it offers a charity account. Fingers crossed it doesn’t change its mind as this will leave only banks and building societies that are best avoided. Thank for keeping us so well informed.

Christine Mackay, by email



An ethical pal?
As Secretary of a Transition Town initiative I was wondering how ethical PayPal is? We are considering adding a donations button to our new website which would require setting up a PayPal account or similar. Could you advise if there is an ethical alternative available?

Posted in our Forums by BaldyBloke

Ed: PayPal is owned by eBay. They score 7 in our database and score our worst ratings for tax avoidance, supply chain management and environmental reporting. Similar products are only really available from even lower-scoring companies like Amazon Payments and Google Wallet. Stipe is a popular independent payment processor amongst smaller organisations.



Carbon offsetting
Just wanted to let you know that your carbon offsetting page was done in 2007 and so with the last almost 10 years of politics, it probably needs updating. Thanks for all the good work you do for the world.

Emily Rushton, by email

I have just read your page on carbon offsetting on your website and was wondering if you know of a website where I can buy the ‘CDM gold standard’ carbon offsets mentioned. I can’t seem to find any certified consumer carbon offsets online.

Leon Nixon, by email


Any plans to cover tyres?
I was wondering if EC has ever or plans to do a guide on car tyre providers? For example, covering companies like: Goodyear, Pirelli, Michelin, Continental, etc.

William Duncan, by email


Not so smart meters?
It’s costing us – consumers – £20 billion to re-meter every home across the UK with meters which display instantaneous consumption under the guise of evening-out demand peaks on the National Grid. However the real aim is to scrap fixed tariffs altogether by transmitting an instantaneous price which will vary second by second through the day according to the ‘spot’ price paid by your supplier at that time. Unless you are constantly monitoring this charge and switch off when the price gets too high, you won’t have any idea how much it’s costing you till the bill lands on the floor.

Ironically, if it was successful and across the nation consumers switched on and off at set prices, it would make the grid unmanageable – just as pre-programmed sell and buy pricing did for the stock market.For customers using E7 heating, with no fixed overnight price the cost could be colossal. And who makes the money? – the American meter manufacturer that sold our Government the idea!!

G.D.Johnston, by email