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Recession impacts shoppers’ ethical shopping habits

Research reveals 55% of UK shoppers cannot afford to act on their ethical principles

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Recession impacts shoppers’ ethical shopping habits

Research reveals 55% of UK shoppers cannot afford to act on their ethical principles

A new report aimed at reviewing the ethical and economic issues that face UK shoppers in 2010, has been launched today by Shoppercentric, an independent agency specialising in shopper behaviour research.

The findings have revealed that 55 percent of the UK’s shoppers feel they cannot afford to act on their ethical principles, and 77 per cent admit that higher prices are preventing them from buying more environmentally friendly products.

“There are clear signs that current economic pressures have put the brakes on the trend for buying more ethically produced goods,” said Danielle Pinnington, Managing Director at Shoppercentric. “We would however strongly counsel against businesses reading these trends as a suggestion that there is a diminishing desire for ethical products and practices among shoppers. Instead, we would interpret the changes in behaviour as reflecting a change in what shoppers are looking for. Ethical choices aren’t about brands or retailers using specific labels as some value-added variable that justifies a higher price point. Ethical choices are increasingly about fair pricing, production and practices that extend beyond a label.” “In addition,”

Pinnington adds,“it’s clear that many shoppers are meeting their desire to be environmentally friendly by adopting more prudent strategies – 44 percent. A significant 66 percent claim to be more careful about avoiding waste than they used to be and 64 percent say they are making things go further. We did find a sizeable proportion of shoppers for whom environmental and ethical concerns appear to have become hard-wired into their shopping habits – 52 percent of shoppers claimed that they were trying to ‘do their bit’ by shopping ethically, a figure that has risen from 45 percent in 2008 when we last looked at ethical trends.

Greater choices are bound to have played some part in these increases, but only if the underlying desire to shop ethically also exists.” Key ethical trends: 65 percent of shoppers agreed that they don't want to pay more for environmentally or socially friendly products if the taste/quality isn't any better. Despite the trends toward localisation, only 30 percent are changing their habits to support local shops more. Just 39 percent of shoppers say that they want to make sure that the money they do spend, benefits British (local) businesses. More shoppers than ever claim to be making a point of buying environmentally / socially friendly packaged groceries: 52 percent compared with 43 percent in 2008. 49 percent of shoppers claim to shop ethically when they buy toiletries, 25 percent when they buy clothes and 21 percent when they buy shoes.

One in three mums are also adopting an ethical approach to their baby buying habits: 30 percent when buying nappies and 34 percent when buying other items. Shoppers are most likely to notice fair trade, organic, free range and recycled labelling when food shopping – reflecting very little change since 2008. But, new issues appear to be gaining more prominence, with labels denoting provenance much more likely to be noticed by shoppers today. 62 percent of shoppers now claim that they notice locally sourced labelling on food & drink (compared with 52 percent in 2008), 43 percent notice sustainable sourcing labels (compared with 28 percent in 2008), and 32 percent notice renewable energy labels (compared with 19 percent in 2008). The younger generations seem to be showing the most interest in shopping “ethically”. 65 percent of these under 25’s are keen to do their bit by buying environmentally / socially friendly products versus 52 percent on average. 79 percent would buy more environmentally friendly products if these sorts of products were more easily available versus 61 percent on average.

Further reflecting this commitment to the cause, 57 percent agreed that they would try to buy more of these types of goods over the next five years (compared with 42 percent of the shopping population at large). The most widely recognised ethical label was cited as Free Range (86 percent), followed by Fairtrade (82 percent) and then Organic (79 percent).

The least recognised label was Carbon Miles with 26 percent. Around half of shoppers will always / frequently choose products that have the least amount of packaging or that have packaging that is easy to recycle. 73 percent of shoppers now claim that they always or frequently take their own bags shopping.

The vast majority of shoppers are now recycling their household waste: most commonly newspapers (90 percent), glass (87 percent), plastic bottles (87 percent), cardboard packaging (86 percent), other paper (76 percent) and other plastic (70 percent). Even at the bottom of the scale, 41 percent are now recycling food waste. Just 3 percent of shoppers claim to be doing no recycling at all. Pinnington concluded: “The impact of the tough economic situation on ethical shopping is impossible to deny, yet whilst the wallet may be struggling to meet the demands, the will is still there and shoppers are finding other ways to satisfy their desires to be green.

In the mean time, retailers and manufacturers need to continue communicating with their customers on the ethical agenda, and to find meaningful and relevant ways of supporting them in their ethical endeavours. The businesses that are able to convince shoppers of their ethical credentials now are those that are likely to benefit the most from the ‘green pound’ when it re-emerges.”

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