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Journal of Consumer Ethics

Jun 25

Written by:
25/06/2018 14:55  RssIcon

The third issue of Ethical Consumer’s academic journal (Vol 2 Issue 1) contains discussions of slavery, ivory, boycotts and consumer motivation. 


Dilemmas for our ethical markets report

This paper discusses the methodological choices made in Ethical Consumer’s Markets Report: our measurement of the size of the UK market for ‘ethical’ products, which has now been published annually for 17 years. 

The researchers face many dilemmas. In the Ethical Money section, for example, the report does not currently include Building Societies (except the Ecology) as they do not always market themselves as ethical choices. Is this right? And in the vegetarian foods section, it reports the sales of meat substitutes but not fresh vegetables. Does this make sense?

In addition, although the Report records annual sales of all organic food and all meat substitutes, we know that some individuals are choosing these items primarily for health reasons. Are these properly ethical purchases, or something else? This issue is even more apparent in the case of energy efficient lightbulbs where they are now pretty much the only choice for everyone. Is it right to record these as ethical purchases still?

The article explores these issues and proposes some common sense answers, but also asks for feedback.

A history of ivory consumption

This article provides a brief account of elephant ivory consumption from the ancient world to the early twenty-first century. It explores, for example, how the rate of hunting during the Roman empire created the first recorded extinction of local herds. It looks at how the rise of animal welfare and animal rights ideas have affected the ivory trade, and how the current precipitous decline in remaining elephant numbers is being addressed by global regulators.

With much modern consumption occurring in China and Japan, the author suggests that campaigns to reduce consumption should challenge the idea that ivory items are somehow traditional.

This article is fully illustrated, with pictures including the image of two American buyers sitting on approximately 50 ivory tusks in Zanzibar, around 1890-1910.


Traffic lights for Modern Slavery?

In this extended version of the article on the Modern Slavery Act (MSA) which appeared in the last issue of Ethical Consumer, we look at how civil society groups have begun to analyse and comment on the modern slavery statements that companies are starting to publish.

Only a third of these meet the legal minimum requirements, and although over 5000 statements have been published, it is estimated that over a third of the companies required to submit statements have failed to comply. 

Encouragingly, a consortium of civil society organisations have established a UK Modern Slavery Act Registry. But more needs to be done to digest the data created by the MSA to make it practically useful to most consumers. A simple score or traffic light system might help ordinary people differentiate bad from good in this complex environment. 


Book reviews

Do Good

This journal also contains an extract from the new book by US brand strategist Anne Bahr Thompson. As global issues become of increasing concern to consumers, Do Good joins a growing call for companies to move beyond acting sustainably, to making and demonstrating positive impact. Using the framework of Brand Citizenship, Anne provides tools for taking responsibility into a company’s core purpose.


Protest Politics in the Marketplace

Caroline Heldman examines the explosion of consumer campaigning in the USA in the pre and post Trump era. She looks at how social media has revolutionised the use and effectiveness of consumer activism, and also investigates the use of these tactics by conservatives as well as liberals.


Future Issues

We have two special issues planned, one on food and ethical consumption due for October 2018, and one linked to the 11th–12th September 2018 Leeds University conference on Engaging Business and Consumers for Sustainable Change.

We welcome submissions though, at any time, on subjects linked to ethical consumption. More details and contact information is on the website.

Journal of Consumer Ethics content is currently freely available online. 









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