Ethical consumerism and the economy – a bending trend

“A trend is a trend is a trend, until it bends”

Ged Davis from Shell famously said. His comment encapsulates one of the difficulties of strategic analysis, which is the way in which individual drivers relate to each other. A trend can seem to be progressing in a fairly predictable fashion, until a shock or a counter-trend knocks it off course. This is usually what is behind those predictions that were so famously wrong.

I was reminded of this today as I updated our driver on ethical consumerism. This seemed to be a fairly stable trend a year ago. As individuals became increasingly aware of the environmental and other impacts of their consumption of food, transport and leisure, ethical consumerism increased at an average rate of 15 percent per annum between 2002 and 2006 according to the Co-operative Bank’s Ethical Consumerism Report 2007. But then came the credit-crunch and people’s priorities changed. As the cost of living rises, consumer confidence is falling. In this environment, it is very likely that many consumers will turn away from ethical products as cost overrides other concerns, as Caroline discussed here recently. This won’t just impact on charities and social enterprises trading ethical products and services. Other ‘luxuries’ could also suffer, perhaps including membership subscriptions and some charitable donations.

Last updated at 12:00 Mon 07/Feb/11.
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I agree that in a tighter economic climate individuals may move away from ethical products. However we could also see an increase in some ethical activities, like ethical shopping. While ONS figures for July show overall retail sales down 0.3% sales from Oxfam’s shops were up 7%. People appear more inclined to go to Charity shops when feeling the pinch!

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