The rise of ethical consumerism

Honest Communications, a specialist garden and home PR agency, social media management, content creation and communications agency

As an agency we pride ourselves on working with people who share our values – honesty, integrity and creativity. These principles are also being embraced by an increasingly large consumer base; people who are looking for ethical, sustainable products from companies they can trust.

Way back in December 2019 (which feels like decades ago following the longest seven months in history), The Co-op reported in its Ethical Consumerism report that ethical spending had risen almost fourfold in the past 20 years, rocketing from £11.2bn in 1999 to a conservative £41.1bn by the end of 2019. B-daily, in fact, recently stated that the ethical consumer market is actually closer to £82bn in the UK alone. This can be seen as an indicator of how much UK consumers’ shopping habits reflect the importance they place on issues such as the environment, animal welfare, social justice and human rights.

What is clear is that the COVID-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, an important impact on the way people buy and consume goods. As the world shut down in an attempt to stave off the virus, people began to find a growing awareness of what was really important – people, the planet, and a genuine connection to both. With extended periods of time to think, and worry, about the state of the country, the economy and the environment, consumers began to think more about balancing what they buy and how they spend their time with global issues of sustainability. This video did the rounds during lockdown, and it really sums up this period of reflection and healing –

A survey by Accenture has suggested that consumers will continue to re-focus their purchasing behaviour for at least the next decade. While these purchasing decisions are currently centred on the most basic needs such as food and hygiene, the survey found that people are shopping more consciously and buying locally, which will change habits for years to come. They say that it takes an average of 66 days for a person to form a new habit that becomes automatic to them – we have already had considerably longer than that!

With this growing market, brands are being encouraged to be agile and update their activity and portfolio of products to ensure that they are able to fulfil the demand. Of course, it is a positive thing when any company adds an ethical offering to its product line, but brands beware! Consumers are savvier and more switched-on than ever, and can spot greenwashing and faux sincerity a mile off, which will cause a brand potentially irredeemable harm. In fact, it was recently found that just one fifth of consumers trust brands’ sustainability claims*. So, if you are not legit, don’t bother pretending to be.

The same research also showed that an enormous 83% of consumers would be more likely to trust a product’s sustainability claim if it had been verified by a third party. The rise in this highlights consumers’ growing distrust of brands and a desire, and ability, to conduct full research before parting with their cash and supporting a brand. If brands want to capture this ethical audience, they will have to be able to validate their sustainability practices. Accreditations such as those offered by B Corp provide consumers with purchasing confidence and hold businesses accountable, setting a new standard.

We can help, truly ethical, brands reach this customer base through PR support that generates genuine, third party endorsements and the development of mutually-beneficial partnerships.

If you’d like to find a way to tell people about your ethical product or service, have a chat to us at Honest. We are all about supporting brands with a positive ethos and desire to make the world a better place, something that we have been exploring with our new clients, Antiques Boutique.