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Ethical labelling: making good choices clearer

Jul 1

Written by:
01/07/2015 13:05  RssIcon

Consumer demand for labelling grows

Ethical consumption is growing steadily in the UK as more and more people start to consider the social and environmental impact of their spending choices. 

A key driver for this growth is ethical labelling.

There are now a host of ethical labels and certification initiatives to guide ethically conscious customers in their daily lives.  The criteria used to evaluate the company or product vary, but they are broadly ‘ethical’ as they advocate and demand more rigorous and sustainable standards than the legislated minimum, whether in terms of farming, forest management, construction, energy or other relevant sector. 


New research

Research has shown that many customers not only know about certification schemes but also rely on ethical labelling when shopping. In a recent global survey on forest certification schemes more than half of respondents said that choosing a product with an ethical label reassured them that considerations of sustainability and environmental impact had been taken into account.

Moreover, 6 in 10 felt that buying ethically-labelled products could make a difference to the world’s forests, whereas only 1 in 10 felt that their shopping choices would make no difference at all.  

Having an ethical label means that there has been some scrutiny of the product’s social and environmental impact, and it is likely to be a more ethical product than the non-labelled alternatives. Ethical labels have thus become signposts that guide conscientious shoppers through the overwhelming product choices we all face.   

Moreover, while many labelling schemes have focused on commodities and the screening of production and supply chains, there seems to be growing demand for easily recognisable ethical certification in other areas as well. 


Latest polling data from the UK

A YouGov survey this spring showed that people were generally sceptical of information regarding companies’  tax payments, but would trust information from ethical labelling schemes almost as readily as figures from the HMRC, when considering whether a company is paying the right amount of tax. While 47 per cent of survey respondees said they would look to the authorities for reliable information regarding businesses’ tax payments, 43 per cent said they would consult independent tax accreditation schemes.

Most people would not readily trust tax data from the companies themselves, the media or politicians. In the tax-focused survey mentioned above, 22 per cent of respondees said they would consult the company’s annual report and accounts, whereas only 8 and 2 per cent respectively would trust the media or politicians to provide accurate information.

This leaves fertile ground for the Fair Tax Mark and their work for transparency and just tax payments among businesses.

Young people are also very much keyed into ethical considerations. In a recent survey, more than 8 in 10 teenagers said they believe companies need to act more responsibly, and around three quarters said they would like to buy more ethical and sustainable products.

This generation does not seem to trust the government or big business to improve conditions for workers or for the environment. Instead, they look to initiatives such as Fair Trade. 


Great potential

Ethical labelling is trusted by consumers and in high demand, and there is significant potential for even greater impact. For some products that have been ethically traded for long and at high volumes, such as coffee, some brands and their accreditors are starting to develop and adapt their models to compete on ethics rather than just price. Ideally, coffee shoppers will gravitate towards the more demonstrably ethical products, pushing the ethical bar ever higher. This effect may also be felt for other products as ethical markets grow and mature.


Discover more about ethical labelling

If you are involved in ethical certification or interested in getting for your business please consider attending our afternoon conference on 24 July

Entitled ‘Communicating the benefits of ethical labelling to consumers and businesses,’ it will involve participants from many of the key players in the UK and internationally, such as the Fairtrade Foundation, Forest Stewardship Council and ISEAL. 

In addition to fascinating presentations and lots of discussions on some of the key, burning issues in this area, we also will reveal the results of some brand-new research into ethical consumption. 

Hope to see you there!

Find out more and book you tickets now >










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