The concept of ethical consumerism creates an active consumer, who uses their purchases as a sort of voting power that leads to positive buying of ethically produced goods and products, products that are not considered ethically produced products are boycotted, HOW DO WE LABEL SOMETHING ETHICALL?
We should first bear in mind that the term ethical will not be the same as everyone’s definition, some people care about the treatment of developing countries, others the people who work in these countries, but it all leads to someone wanting to make a difference with their buying power, the term most commonly used to define if a product is ethical is if it is produced or manufactured or even a service is performed to minimize any damage to the environment or society as a whole. The Cooperative bank who has produced an ethical consumer report since 1999 claims that the market for ethically produced goods consists mainly of: Ethical food and drink.
The green home.
Eco-travel and transport.
Ethical personal products.
THE RISE OF THE PHENOMENOM THAT IS ETHICAL CONSUMERISM.
Since 1999 the Cooperative bank has being producing the ethical consumer report that tracks the spending of the ethical consumer, they also track when a consumer makes an informed choice on a particular product or the change the consumer trying to affect. In 1999 the combined spending of the ethical consumer was £13.5 billion by 2008 this had risen to £36 billion in 2011 this was pushing £50 billion, despite the economic downturn this has not stopped the growth of the ethical revolution, it may only account for less than 1% of the overall household expenditure in 2008 but it is catching up, in 2000 the average ethical spend per household was £291 eleven years later in 2011 this now stands at £989, at this steady rate of growth the market will more than double in another ten years, according to Douane (2011) the most explosive growth has been in green fuels which has grown by 70%, this is closely followed by household goods this has captured 50% market share, she also raised the other areas that require more growth such as charitable giving and green mortgages these are not as strong now but a lot is expected in terms of growth in the coming years as a lot of the market is always trying to find new options for ethical consumerism, the Cooperative banks consumer report on the ethical consumer for 2012 stated that the biggest development during the recession has been sustainable fish from £69 million to £292 million and Fairtrade also went up by 176% and the sales of free range eggs went up by 78%, it also pointed out the drop in sales of organic produce, these facts put ethical consumers at the forefront of this economic revolution because consumers have come to see spending as some form of moral standing. MARKS AND SPENCERS from the beginning.
The company was formed by a Russian called Michael Marks and an English man by the name of Tom Spencer, it all started from a stall at Kirkgate market in Leeds, this happened in 1894, they started with the principles of quality, value, service, innovation and trust, they started with market stalls called penny bazaars, by 1900 they had expanded to 36 of these penny bazaar and they had added 12 high street stores. According to the company their biggest change since being formed happened 1900 and 1920, they registered as a public company and bought some of their competitors and took control of their stores, around that time the English economy was growing and they took advantage of the opportunities in the economy and they started almost everything that consumers would need in the home, throughout all this time they carried on pricing their items at a penny this continued till the first world war, after that goods were a lot expensive as it was hard to source goods because of the war.
After 1920 the economy was hit by the great depression although a lot of companies closed because of a shortage of goods and the unemployment rate was very high, Marks and Spencer’s was now facing a new type of competition from a new type of budget store, so they had to adapt to a new business model which meant they had to start selling their goods for up to five shillings, because it was not easy to source out goods they had to reduce the number of items the sold and put all their attentions on growing the food section of their business and started selling clothes because it was well made and affordable, it went down well with consumers because of the financial climate for consumers, they were also the first company to have a research laboratory to test the clothes and the fabrics that were used to manufacture the clothes and test them for quality, as the economy developed and the city was rebuilt and new houses were built the company started to sell the affordable household goods that they were known for they claim that this period was when there product started to blend with the lifestyle of the British people.
The outbreak of world war two was when rationing was introduced and the enemy started to bomb the country and the capital and over a hundred stores that the company owned were destroyed, even through all that they still participated in the war effort, setting up soup kitchens and taking care of wounded soldiers all with the help of their employees, they even raised money for a Spitfire, before the war most of the food in Britain was imported in and the war put a stop to that and most of the companies food was sold straight from the delivery truck because of impatient and hungry consumers, because of the rationing which started with bacon, sugar and butter that applied to the everyday consumers this was not the case for restaurants so as people started to eat out more, the company saw the opportunity in 1942 to open up 82 Café bars in their stores, they even took the manmade fabrics they had created during the war to create fashion after the war.
Between 1960 and 1970 saw modern innovations brought in to their product lines such as time and labor saving and they developed most of these products from the laboratory to the shelves, caused they believed that every consumer deserved the latest innovations to make their everyday lives easier, they found new and safe ways to sell dairy products and meats, they started by finding a fresh way to sell chicken products as it was believed that as long as it was it was frozen it would not cause food poisoning, but the company believed that their consumers wanted more fresh products and they found a new way to sell their meats chilled not frozen, they did this by coming up with a cold chain process were the chicken were chilled at 4 degrees centigrade, transported in refrigerator vans, stored in a refrigerated storage and sold from refrigerated counters, this was a process that they developed with their suppliers and they were the first supermarket to start this process that is used till this day.
By the 1970’s home freezers were much more affordable so they introduced frozen foods that they described as convenient foods and this was very popular as the microwave was also becoming affordable and widely available, during this same period they introduced Chinese and Indian meals although this line didn’t really take off until the 1980’s, they were also the first retailers that got their suppliers more involved in the design of the products that they manufactured from clothes fashionable, formal and casual, to lingerie and men’s underwear all inspired but the most trendiest fashions from all over the world.
mARKS AND SPENCERS AND THEIR ETHICAL POLICIES.
Marks and Spencer’s has come to realize that having strong ethical policies in place is good for business as it is good for the company’s image and the profits increase so it is not bad for the health of the company, and these policies that they have in place are the Global Sourcing Principles, Plan A and they are also members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) which is a number of companies, trade unions and human rights groups, this organization was set up by the government in 1998 and Marks and Spencer became a member about ten years later. ETI CODE OF LABOUR PRACTICE
These base code of practice is what every member in the organization has to follow as well as their own codes but it must no contradict the base code of the ETI, in the case of Marks and Spencer’s it’s their Global Sourcing Principles, the ETI codes are:
Employment is freely chosen.
Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected.
Working conditions are safe and hygienic.
Child labour shall not be used.
Living wage is paid.
Working hours are not excessive.
No discrimination is practiced.
Regular employment is provided.
No harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed.
Since being a part of this organization Marks and Spencer’s has stated that the practice of these base code of practice has provided the workers with respect, working in safer environments and a much more fairer pay system, they have benefited from productivity and commitment resulting in a far better quality and value in the products that they receive from their suppliers.
GLOBAL SOURCING PRINCIPLES
Marks and Spencer have to take a lot of precautions since joining the ETI especially when they are choosing suppliers as there are added rules and they had to add a couple of there own this is known in the company as the Global Sourcing Principles, they even expected their existing suppliers to raise their standards to meet up with the ETI and the Global Sourcing Principles and these principles are: Supplier’s responsibility- this means that it is the suppliers responsibility that the base code of the ETI and the Global Sourcing Principles are followed. Workforce rights- this means that the employees have to have the rights that are stated in the ETI base code or if not in place they have to show that they are striving to comply with each and every one of them.
Production sites and labelling- this means that every single product has to be labelled from the country of origin. Regular assessment- this means that all the sites that agree to supply the company can be visited regularly to make sure all the rules and regulations are being followed and so they can achieve continued improvements. Environmental responsibility- all suppliers must follow local regulations if there are none in place they must follow Marks and Spencer’s standards regarding the environment. Commitment to extending these principles throughout the supply chain- this means that all their suppliers must emphasize on these principles when dealing with other suppliers in the supply chain.
M and S launched Plan A in 2007 they first set out about a 100 commitments that they planned to achieve in as little as five years and they have received as much as 190 awards from various ethical, wildlife and environmental awards and all this has inspired their employees and customers alike. It was thought that the whole platform was a bit too ambitious, especially in its claim to want to be the world’s most sustainable retailer and that they wanted everything that they did from the energy saving from every business premise that they owned right down to the people in the developing countries with their ETI base codes, Global Sourcing Principles and Plan A that dealt with the planetary issues and they have encouraged their employees to be a part of it, so a job is not just a job but something that could make an employee feel good about what they are doing and they also feel like they are making a difference. The most spectacular thing that they have achieved because Plan A is that they have reduced their carbon footprints and they have received the Carbon Trust Triple Award 2014 from the Carbon Trust Standards an independent group who measure, manage and measure carbon footprints
Most companies have now found out that having a CSR policy in place provides the company with a good image, and that its good for business in some cases like in Marks and Spencer’s they have made the ethical transition very profitable, but when you actually go were all this ethical consumerism is supposed to be doing all this good.