Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ethical consumption: Consumer-driven or political phenomenon?

08.08.2007
The most effective campaigns to encourage ethical consumption are those that take place at a collective level, such as the creation of Fairtrade cities, rather than those that target individual behaviour. These are the findings of a new study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The research suggests that ethical consumption is best understood as a political phenomenon rather than simply a market response to consumer demand.

"For many people, their choice to buy ethical goods or services is shaped by both personal and public commitments," says Dr Clive Barnett of the ESRC's Cultures of Consumption programme. People bring a wide range of ethical concerns to their everyday consumption practices, from the personal responsibilities of family life to more public commitments like membership of a faith community or political affiliation.

The research team found that campaigns aimed at getting people to change what they buy often worked on the assumption that individuals lack the necessary information to make educated decisions about the consequences of what they buy and where they buy it from. However the findings from the study suggest that people don't necessarily lack the information about Fairtrade, organic food, environmental sustainability, or third world sweatshops. They do, however, often lack effective pathways to acting on their concerns over these issues.

By holding a series of 12 focus-groups in different areas of Bristol, the team were able to access a wide range of participants differentiated by class, gender, ethnicity, race, age, income and education. The results from the focus-groups found that individual's ability to adopt ethical consumption practices are affected by different levels of material resources in terms of their income and access to shops that sell ethically sourced goods.

Dr Barnett said: "People actually seem very aware of these types of things, but often don't feel that they have the opportunities or resources to be able to buy Fairtrade products or ethically sourced goods. And it's not as simple as the consumer making a choice to buy an item that is ethically sound."

A great deal of the consumption people do they don’t do as ‘consumers’ exercising ‘choice’. Lots of consumption is embedded in relationships of obligation where people are acting as parents, caring partners, football fans or good friends. Some consumption is used to sustain these sorts of relationships: giving gifts, buying school lunches, getting hold of this season’s new strip. And quite a lot of consumption is done as the background to these activities, embedded in all sorts of infrastructures (eg transport, energy, water) over which people have little or no direct influence as individual ‘consumers’.

In order to successfully encourage people to adopt ethical consumption activities, it is important to call on their specific identities, as for example a member of the local community or faith group, rather than just targeting them as 'faceless' and ‘placeless’ consumers. The most successful initiatives are those that find ways of making changes to the practical routines of consumption. For example, by changing how and what people buy and from where through establishing initiatives such as Fairtrade networks or achieving the status of a Fairtrade town or city.

In order to become a Fairtrade town, the local council must pass a resolution supporting Fairtrade, a range of Fairtrade products must be readily available in the area’s shops and served in local cafés and catering establishments and Fairtrade products must be used by a number of local workplaces and community organisations. Fairtrade town and Fairtrade city initiatives are a means of raising awareness around issues of global inequality and trade justice, as well as transforming collective infrastructures of provisioning so that everyone, irrespective of their ‘choice’, becomes an ‘ethical consumer’.

The research findings present a clear message says Dr Barnett: "If ethical consumption campaigns are to succeed they need to transform the infrastructures of every day consumption rather than focusing on changing individual consumer behaviour".

Annika Howard | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>