Last updated: February 2016
Why Buy Ethically?
The vote in your pocket
Food and goods in the UK are relatively cheap at the moment. But while we might be saving money, there's always a cost somewhere down the line. Buying cheap clothes which have been made in sweatshops is a vote for worker exploitation. Buying a gas guzzling 4X4, especially if you are a city dweller, is a vote for climate change.
Factory farmed animals, meanwhile, may make cheap meat but it comes at a price on the quality of life of the animal. When it comes to supermarkets, the cost can be to our high streets and local shops.
Even small, everyday purchases, such as coffee, tea, breakfast cereal, bread or bin-bags are a vote for something. Favouring organic produce is a vote for environmental sustainability and fairtrade is a vote for human rights.
Considering ethical issues when we go shopping means taking impacts like this into account.
Making your vote count
It's often easy to get overwhelmed by the scale of the problem and by the number of changes that you could make. This is where Ethical Consumer comes in.
By pulling together and evaluating all the different kinds of advice and information that we get from campaigners and companies, we can present clear conclusions about the best options to take.
As consumers, we have a great deal of power in our pockets. Just look at how the supermarkets and food companies responded on the issue of genetically modified food. Even the threat of withdrawing our custom can change company policy.
Sometimes the choices aren't straightforward - is it better to buy organic vegetables flown in from overseas, or non-organic vegetables from a local farmer? Not everyone will come to the same conclusion - but Ethical Consumer will give you the information you need to make an informed decision about the things you buy.
Four types of ethical buying
Ethical consumerism is just as much about supporting the 'good' companies and products as it is withdrawing our support from the 'bad' ones.
- Positive Buying
This means favouring particular ethical products, such as energy saving lightbulbs.
- Negative Purchasing
This means avoiding products that you disapprove of, such as battery eggs or gas-guzzling cars.
- Company-Based Purchasing
This means targeting a business as a whole and avoiding all the products made by one company. For example, the Nestle boycott has targeted all its brands and subsidiaries in a bid to get the company to change the way it markets its baby milk formula across the world.
- Fully-Screened Approach
This means looking both at companies and at products and evaluating which product is the most ethical overall.
This is exactly what we do in Ethical Consumer Magazine and the Best Buys that we recommend are essentially the most ethical, 'fully-screened' products that we can find.