Ethical online shopping in the UK
This guide to ethical online retailers is part of our Amazon Alternatives series, designed to help you avoid using Amazon where possible. All of the brands in this guide are better alternatives to Amazon, so although there are some brands who score much lower down the table, all of them have more ethical credentials than Amazon.
Our previous online retailers guide came out in November 2021, just as the Omicron variant threatened to shake up the dust that was still settling from previous lockdowns. Two years later and online spending remains high, with 56% of UK consumers stating that they spend more online than they did pre-pandemic and that they’ll continue to do so. Amazon’s expansion too shows no signs of slowing, but its attempts to clean up its act are too little, too late. It’s crucial that we support alternatives that are, if not fully ethical, at least less harmful.
It’s possible that Amazon’s market successes and ethical failures can be attributed to the same thing – its monopolistic ambition to sell absolutely anything. Can an ethical retailer reasonably hope to compete with Amazon’s sheer scale of product availability without compromising somewhere down the line? Different sectors come with their own ethical challenges, and, as people trying to live ethically will know, even sustainably minded companies often fall short in their chosen specialisms. Being an ethical generalist is no small task.
Moreover, Amazon Prime has basically trained consumers into thinking of free, fast shipping as an additional human right. Smaller companies are forced into competing on Amazon’s terms, but generally lack the logistics networks to do so cost effectively.
As such, many smaller and more ethical online alternatives have collapsed since we first published this guide nearly a decade ago. Traidcraft, a Fairtrade pioneer since 1979, went into administration in January 2023, and previous Best Buy Wearth has now merged with Veo.