Can ethics transform consumerism? Trends in sustainable shopping

Fairtrade Press Day

Four experts in sustainable trends discuss how and why people are seeking out more ethical choices.

Ethical shopping is increasing and trends like Fairtrade and organic will continue to grow as people want to know more about the provenance of their food, fashion and jewellery and the people who produce it.  

Leading experts from across the fashion, jewellery and food sectors took part in a panel discussion on 11th July 2017 at the Good Housekeeping Institute chaired by the Fairtrade Foundation’s Head of Campaigns Jonathan Smith, and debated how and why people are increasingly seeking out more ethical choices. 

New TNS research released today by the Fairtrade Foundation reveals that 77% people in the UK now say they care about Fairtrade, and 78% say they trust the label. One in four people (25%), are actively choosing to buy Fairtrade products when they shop. 

By selecting Fairtrade, shoppers have created change through their everyday actions. They have supported farming communities to feed their families, fund ambulances, maternity clinics and health centres. Remote, marginalised communities now have infrastructure that didn’t exist before – schools, electricity and clean water. 

Today, increasingly equitable ways of doing trade are needed more than ever. Many farmers in countries such as Malawi, Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire all contribute to the tea, coffee and cocoa we enjoy in the UK, but are still living in poverty: Tea pickers in Malawi earn less than £1.46 a day, not enough to provide decent food, education or healthcare for their families. 1 in 3 people in Kenya’s coffee and tea growing regions live in poverty. The average cocoa farmer in Côte d’Ivoire lives on around 38p a day.

Our expert speakers agreed that sustainable products, services and behaviours are the future. They are better for business, consumers and the planet, and increasingly asked for by consumers. They explored some of the sustainable and ethical trends for Christmas and New Year and how people can make a small change to help more people around the world. 

The panel agreed unanimously that working conditions, transparency, supply chains, and the environment must be put at the heart of each industry in order to gain momentum. Only then can we can start to tackle consumption habits, and how brands communicate the positive steps they are taking. 

Liz Earle, MBE, founder of Liz Earle Wellbeing and Fair and Fine Jewellery talked about the importance of building ethical brands and how this spills over into the world of wellbeing and sustainable sourcing. “If we can achieve an ethical and fair provenance for goods as transient as a T-shirt, surely we can also work towards creating a fairer and more transparent journey for the gold that we wear as jewellery – something also worn next to our skin and so often given as a symbol of eternal love. Fairtrade gold gives us that opportunity.”

Food writer Melissa Hemsley of Hemsley & Hemsley shared her experience of food trends and how people are using the media to share what they really love and trust. “One of the many positive things about social media is that you can’t ignore the bad stuff anymore – we must read these stories and we must be aware of the people who make our jewellery or our food.” 

Lucy Shea, CEO of change agency Futerra said: “The Fashion Revolution campaign spear-headed the need for change to fast fashion to a more conscious creation. This echoes many of the trends in food and wellbeing. Survey after survey shows consumers really care, and with so much media and constant scrutiny everywhere people have the means to ask questions and businesses must provide the answers. 

“We can, and we must, imagine a better world. Because mindset is fundamental to creating change. Each time you shop it's a vote to change the world the way you want, this, and the fashion industry will play an important role in making it happen. Let’s get to work!”

Award-winning chef, food writer, food-waste campaigner Tom Hunt
prioritises people and the environment within his work and believes in a fair global food system where our actions benefit community, biodiversity and wildlife. 

“We have a responsibility as a human being to act in the right way. There has to be a change in how people value their food. Already people are becoming more aware about where their food comes from, whether it’s local or has a longer supply chain – things like coffee, tea and cocoa that aren’t grown in the UK – but there is more we could do.

“We live in a world where there isn't enough transparency so we need certification to help us make decisions. Whether that’s buying a Fairtrade product or cooking sustainable, so that we can enjoy the things we love knowing that we’re still doing the right thing.” 

– ENDS –

About Fairtrade 
The international Fairtrade system exists to end poverty through trade. The Fairtrade Foundation is an independent certification body and NGO which licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on more than 5,000 products which meet its rigorous social, economic and environmental standards. This independent label signifies to consumers that farmers and workers across 75 developing countries are getting a better deal from trade. 

Today, more than 1.6 million people who work hard to produce coffee, tea, cocoa, bananas, wines, flowers, cotton, gold and many other products benefit from Fairtrade, which campaigns for as well as enables a fairer system of global trade. 

In 2016, UK retail sales of Fairtrade certified products exceeded £1.65 billion. Volume growth also increased, meaning that an estimated financial premium totalling around £30 million will go to farmers and producers across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Caribbean to allow them to continue delivering improvements for themselves and their communities. 

Beyond certification, the Fairtrade Foundation is deepening its impact by delivering specialist programmes to help disadvantaged communities boost productivity in the face of challenges such as climate change.