Volunteering at Ethical Consumer
Mackenzie Denyer shares his experience of interning at Ethical Consumer
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I recently graduated from Bradford University with a degree in Development and Peace Studies. I’m currently volunteering on a straw bale house project in Todmorden and, since the start of August, as a research assistant here at Ethical Consumer.
Mackenzie climbing in the Lake District.
Why did you want to volunteer at Ethical Consumer?
I spent my university years learning about war, poverty and structural violence in the developing world. To me it seemed as though these colossal issues are often fuelled by big business and multi-national corporations.
As I researched further into the largest companies I became aware of how my own consumption is one of the greatest tools I have for protesting against business practices that I disagree with.
I began buying locally, boycotting Coca-Cola, Amazon and Israeli products, reducing my consumption of dairy products and buying fairtrade marked products wherever possible, all the time being acutely aware that I could be doing more.
Ethical Consumer has a great reputation as a research body and I felt as though doing an internship here would not only give me an invaluable experience, but also enable me to productively research something of genuine interest to me.
After my interview here, Ethical Consumer drafted a work plan for my internship which really sparked my excitement and assured me that the experience I was going to get would be priceless as I strive to start a career in the NGO world.
Tell us about your research at Ethical Consumer.
I’m a keen foodie and outdoors-type, so wanted to focus on either one of these topics for my research here.
Recently, I was trying to find an ethically minded climbing shoe, a task which was unsuccessful. This started my intrigue into the lack of environmental awareness in the climbing industry. I decided that analysing the climbing industry’s environmental reporting and practices would be the most interesting use of my time here at Ethical Consumer.
Climbing as a sport has grown in popularity in recent years and the companies that produce its specialist equipment have, until recently, avoided scrutiny from environmental campaign groups and NGOs.
The assumption that climbing companies conduct themselves in an environmentally responsible manner is certainly mistaken. My research so far has been involved analysing climbing companies and their environmental reporting. With the ultimate goal of compiling a critique of the stark contrast between the values of climbers in relation to environment and the corporate climbing industry.
Have you been surprised by anything in your research?
The climbing industry is still small enough to have internationally recognised brands operated by small business owners, but its also big enough to attract the profit making interests of big businesses.
What’s surprised me most is that there seems to be a significant divide in the climbing industry, between brands that are independently owned by climbers and brands owned by big multinational corporations.
At national competitions, such as the C.W.I.F in Sheffield, sponsorship comes from the likes of Adidas (a multi-national company with sales in excess of £12bn), as well as DMM (a Wales based climbing specific company with £10m sales).
Also, although the majority of companies recognise that conserving the environment is crucial, not only to the climbing industry but to the future of the planet more generally, only a small percentage of the companies review so far seem to incorporate environmentalism holistically into their business practices.
What’s it like working at a cooperative?
As a cooperative Ethical Consumer is able to create an open and friendly atmosphere where everyone pitches in to make the organisation function as smoothly and effectively as possible.
There doesn’t seem to be much hierarchy and I have been encouraged to ask for help and advice from everyone in the office as Ethical Consumer seem acutely aware that everyone has something different to bring to the running of the cooperative. I have yet to attend one of Ethical Consumer’s cooperative meetings but hope to in the coming weeks.
Would you recommend doing an internship at Ethical Consumer? And if so why?
I would highly recommend doing an internship at Ethical Consumer, particularly for young people who are trying to gain experience in the NGO field.
During my time here I have felt like a valued and useful member of the cooperative; unlike a lot of other internships which revolve around menial office administration tasks, this role has given me the freedom and resources to conduct my own research.
If you are wanting to get your foot in the door and gain some practical know how, whilst working for an organisation which is brimming with people who are trying to make a difference, then doing an internship at Ethical Consumer is a great option....
Like what you hear? Find out more about working at Ethical Consumer.