Ethical Consumerism: Fig Leaf or Feasible

Off to a local town hall to hear representatives of the big ethical organisations debate the pro's and con's of ethical consumerism. On the left side of the table were The Co-operative Group, and Ethical Consumer Magazine. On the other side were Leo Hickman and the Fairtrade Foundation. A battle of the titans. Actually an agreement of comrades in the struggle. The Ethical Consumer magazine researcher talked about how to make an ethical purchase. Consider the different aspects: environmental, human rights, animal rights, organic, fair trade and the background of the company that made the product. She encouraged people to "buycott" not boycott; i.e. show your support with your purchasing power. Next up: Leo Hickman, the ethical living columnist from the Guardian; who wrote a book about his experience of living ethically with his wife and newborn child for a year. He said that he was astonished at the growing interest in ethical living; in the last 2 or 3 years these have become mainstream concerns. He gets hundreds of emails from people who share his dilemmas such as whether to eat a fair-trade or an organic apple. The Co-operator Group representative talked about ethical finance and the bank's brave decision to turn down business because of its ethical principles--last year it declined 12M£. He said that ethical investment is still small and will remain so but now it has a higher profile because bigger businesses are investing in it. His best tip: energy-efficient light bulbs. The Fairtrade Foundation challenged some myths: fair-trade does not promote over-production, it is not a disincentive to producers to diversify and it is not a niche market. Fairtrade bananas will be 30% of the market by the end of the year and coffee and cocoa are also making huge in-roads. The evening ended with a discussion of food miles: Hickman and the Ethical Consumer go for fresh and local as a general principle, everyone agreed that coffee, cocoa and bananas were fair-trade only . :: Think In Kingston

Tags: Ethical | London