Carrying on with our green theme this week, on Sunday it is Earth Day! Originally started in America the first Earth Day was held on April 22nd, 1962 to give political weight to growing concerns about the environmental impact we have on the earth. It is celebrated all over the world as environmental issues are now part of the everyday life, especially for the consumer. Modern consumers in the UK these days want to know where their products come from, what ethics lie behind those products in the company that makes them and what impact their purchase will have on other lives.
We see ethically traded and environmental logos of the various accreditation bodies that exist such as Fairtrade, The Rainforest Alliance, FSC, etc. on lots of products on the shelves. Many companies are also ISO 14001 accredited which shows they can manage and measure the environmental impact of the company and trace back the green credentials of their raw materials.
This is all very nice for companies to do but it starts with the consumer and is led by them! As our world has opened up with modern communications people have become more educated about the impact their buying power has on the environment and communities. Interestingly after documentaries on the dangerous conditions young children work in to harvest the cocoa bean, chocolate companies felt the pressure of consumers turning off from the idea children have suffered for their chocolate bar. You now see standard chocolate bars sporting the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade logo's as they want to reassure their customers that their chocolate is ethically sourced. It's the same with fairtrade coffee - no-one wants to drink a cup of exploitation in the morning.
There are always going to be the price led consumers who don't think about the life-cylce of the product, they just want it at the cheapest possible price, however the last 20 years or so have seen growth in the eco / ethical products sector. It was a luxury of the middle classes in a position to pay a little extra for ethically sourced products but over the last couple of years it's started filtering into every day products too as companies realise what their consumers want.
Many retailers are keen to offer a green image with their branding, even global fast food chain McDonald's now looks visually very green at their outlets, with campaigns about how they source beef locally in the UK, meeting consumer trends.
According to the Co-Operative's ethical consumerism report sales of ethical goods and services have remained quite consistent despite the economic downturn with growth of 9% since last year, up from £43 billion to £46.8 billion. There are some sub sectors such as organic food which decreased last year but overall there has been a healthy rise in ethical spending not just last year but significantly over the last decade.
So let's celebrate Earth Day on Sunday, celebrate our power as consumers and demand a better greener world!