Ethical Consumerism Text Presentation

What is Ethical Consumerism?

What you spend your money on affects other people and the environment.
Ethical consumerism is being aware of the consequences of the decisions you make with money and choosing to spend in a responsible way.
The economies of other countries and groups within society are affected positively and negatively by trade.
Does our prosperity and happiness come at a cost to others?
Our consumption also affects the environment.
This unit looks at these issues.



Environmental Issues

Whatever we buy is made from resources. These resources are of limited supply. At the same time when we buy things there is usually some part we dispose of – perhaps the packaging or a part of the item which is used up.When we use gas or electricity we add to the demand for fuel and this increases greenhouse gases. When we drive we contribute to pollution.



On average every person in the UK throws away their own body weight in rubbish every two months. This adds up to nearly a tonne of waste every year per person. Normally rubbish has been dumped in landfill sites which spoils large areas or incinerated which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

A large proportion of this rubbish can be reduced by recycling. Many items could be re-used. Less packaging would mean less waste. Recycled materials can be used repeatedly for disposable items.



Reducing your consumption also reduces how much you contribute to the environmental problems of global warming and waste disposal. It also helps you save money.
Switching off electrical appliances when not used
Re-using plastic bags
Recycling newspapers, magazines, bottles and cans
Walking, cycling or sharing transport instead of driving your own car.
Buying second-hand goods or clothes
What other ways are there to consume less and save money?
For further information see
Recycle Now
Energy Saving Trust
Environment Agency



Fair Trade

The way in which Western countries trade with poorer nations affects their standard of living and in many cases keeps people in poverty. If we changed the rules of trade to be fair we could improve the lives of millions of people.When you buy certain products you are helping big western businesses exploit people of poorer nations.



Rich countries limit and control poor countries' share of the world market by charging high taxes on imported goods. As a result, many poor countries can only afford to export raw materials, which give far lower returns than finished products. For example, western companies buy cotton and cocoa at very low prices from Africa, Asia and Latin America and turns them into expensive clothes and chocolate. When we buy these things the profit often goes to the big companies and not to the farmers. Do you know where the chocolate you buy comes from and how much (or how little) the producers benefit from your spending?



One well known sports manufacturer pays an employee $2 to make a pair of trainers which we buy for $67. These huge multi-national corporations employ millions of people on low pay and in poor working conditions in many poorer countries around the world. Often the government of these poorer nations is unlikely to complain for fear of driving away investment. If you knew that fashionable clothes were produced by people who are paid very little while the profit goes to big companies would you still be so keen to buy them?



You may see goods in shops with Fairtrade labelling.
These goods are bought from farmers and local producers at better prices and sometimes they share in the profits, helping the money to be invested in their local communities to develop a better quality of life. This money can be poured into better schools and health care.
Would you feel better about buying goods labelled fair trade if you knew the profits would be going to the farmers in poorer countries?
Would you be prepared to pay a little more for these goods?
For further information see:
Fairtrade Foundation
Make Trade Fair




Around the world millions of people live in slavery. People are bought and sold and forced to work for little or no pay. Their working conditions are appalling and they have no way to protect themselves against mistreatment.
Despite the fact that it is illegal, some people are brought to this country and made to work against their will, often in fear of being discovered by the authorities.
Would you buy products which you know have been manufactured by people working as slaves?
For more information see



Child Labour

Children are made to work in many parts of the world. Sometimes they are forced to do this by forms of slavery but also conditions of extreme poverty mean children have to work to survive. They go without education and are deprived of the kind of upbringing we in the west are accustomed to.
If you knew products were made through child labour would you buy them?
If you were on holiday in a foreign country would you buy goods made by children?
For more information see
End Child Exploitation Campaign



Animal Welfare

Animals are used by humans for food and other products derived from them. Many people no longer tolerate the idea of mistreating animals as it is clear that they suffer as we do.Modern farming techniques involve keeping many animals together in confined spaces, allowing them limited movement and feeding them processed food. This is done to keep costs down but can cause animals to suffer. Recent examples of concern have included the transportation of animals over long distances crammed in lorries. Also the production of veal, which many consider to be inhumane, has been criticised.



In response to these and many other concerns, pressure groups have been formed and new ways of producing food have been adopted. You will see products in supermarkets with labels saying things like:

  • Monitored by the RSPCA
  • Raised in a cruelty free environment
  • Allowed to roam free
  • Organically produced

Would you rather eat meat which comes from animals kept in humane conditions?
Are you prepared to pay more for this?
For further information see
Compassion in World Farming
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
People for the Ethical Treatment of



Free Range Eggs

In the supermarket you will see "free range” and "barn” eggs sold along side other eggs.
Most eggs are produced by chickens kept in battery farms. The labelling will not tell you this. The chickens are confined to small wire cages and provided with food and water. They live most of their lives in this space simply to produce eggs.
Free range eggs and others similarly described come from chickens which live in more natural surroundings, are not confined but are allowed to roam free and eat their normal diet.Which eggs would you choose – free range or non-free range?
If free range eggs cost more would you be prepared to pay extra?




Not so long ago fur coats were a luxurious fashion item worn by elegant ladies. These days fur isn’t fashionable and that’s not simply because of the cost.
There have been several pressure groups who have campaigned to raise awareness of the cruelty of fur production. People who have worn fur in public have been on the receiving end of hostility.Is it right or wrong for someone to wear a fur coat? What about leather?
If you had to choose between a genuine fur coat and a fake fur coat which would you prefer?
For further information see
Fur is Dead



Animal Testing

Many products are tested on animals to ensure that they are safe to humans and can be sold. This can include medicines, household cleaners and cosmetics.
Animals suffer and die in order that products can be sold to us. Some manufacturers now produce a whole range of items which have not been tested on animals.If you buy make-up does it bother you if it has been tested on animals?
Would you pay more for make-up which has not been tested on animals?
Which products in your home have been tested on animals?
For more information see
British Anti-vivisection association
National Anti-Vivisection Society



Ethical Banking & Investment

Your bank invest the money your money in order to make profit. Some of this profit it gives to you as interest.
How would you feel if you knew your bank invested your money in:

  • Arms trade with poorer countries which contributed to ongoing warfare ?
  • Supporting corrupt governments and regimes ?
  • Animal exploitation and cruelty ?

Some banks offer investments which ensure that your money is not spent in these areas.
For further information visit:
Institute of Business Ethics
Ethical Consumer
Ethical Investment Research Service