Ethical Consumer's response to the EU referendum
Our mission remains the same
In the last week the leave vote in the UK has shaken the foundations of our social, economic and political structures. These tremors will have lasting effects both here and across the continent - a continent that is sadly becoming increasingly divided.
Here at Ethical Consumer we won't be moved from our key mission, to challenge corporate power, which remains as important as ever.
The EU, for all its many faults, has tempered unfettered capitalism with some enshrined rights for workers and some protection for the environment. These rights and regulations are now under threat as the UK negotiates new trade deals with the EU and other countries around the world.
These deals will potentially take place under the direction of libertarian capitalists from the right of the Conservative party. Part of Ethical Consumer's work must now be, with our partners throughout the UK and EU, to shine a light on negotiations as best we can to fight against the downgrading of our current social and environmental protections.
The need for action
Consumer action against companies lobbying for a relaxation of labour and environmental laws will become a vital part of any wider campaign. There may also be companies lobbying for a more progressive position which consumers could support.
How the UK deals with the leave vote will now be one area of focus at our annual conference in London this September entitled “Collaborating for change: How consumers, business, campaigners and governments can work together to advance ethical markets.”
As an organisation Ethical Consumer will also continue to campaign in accordance with our own manifesto but there are still a great many ways that consumers can make a difference on a day to day basis.
It is, of course, as important as ever to show solidarity through purchasing behaviour, whether that be a continued commitment to Fairtrade, more focus on ethical banking or buying from progressive European businesses. We will of course continue to support this through our research and product guides.
As Ethical Consumer says in its mission statement, we also understand the need for wider political action - not least to oppose the side effects of a bitter and divisive referendum campaign, such as the racial and xenophobic abuse that appears to have become an unsurprising but horrific consequence.
Ethical consumer behaviours grew as a response to very specific failures of governance in the face of increasingly globalised markets dominated by multinational corporations. It is this neo-liberal model of governance – focussed as it is on the interests of corporations rather than on the interests of humans – that has left whole communities feeling abandoned and irrelevant.
Yet walking away from the only institutions big enough to counter the power of global business is highly likely to make things worse rather than better for these very same communities.
All the indications are, at this early stage, that acting ethically in markets is likely to become more rather than less important as the power to regulate them becomes dissipated. We hope that whichever way people voted they will want to join the movement to ensure that ethical markets can continue to grow and thrive for the benefit of people in the UK, the EU and the wider world.
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