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Ethical Consumption: a Mainstream Trend in Europe – Jan. 2024

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Fair trade, sustainability, responsible, ethical or conscious consumption are terms frequently used interchangeably, yet their meanings can be ambiguous. If you’re wondering what “ethical consumption” truly entails and whether you do consume ethically, you are not alone.

Ethical consumption in Europe: importance and consumer perceptions

Exploring the significance and interest in ethical consumption across Europe uncovers revealing data:

  • 71% of Europeans acknowledge the necessity for an ethical or sustainable lifestyle. GlobalData, 2017
  • In France, 59% take environmental impacts into account when consuming, with 40% considering social and societal effects. ObSoCo, 2021
  • The UK saw a 138% rise in ethical consumption and finance spending from 2010 to 2020. Co-operative Group, 2021
  • 73% of Spaniards make choices based on ethical or sustainable reasons. OCU, 2018
  • In Italy, 63.4% claimed in 2018 to make responsible consumption choices, a significant rise from 28.5% in 2002. OCIS, 2018

The Etikord consumer survey from December 2022 confirms this trend: 57% of consumers in these five countries deem it important or very important to choose ethical products and services. Consequently, ethical consumption has become a prevailing trend. Consumers clearly express their expectations, frustrations, and dilemmas. Frequently associated terms such as “sustainable”, “responsible”, “environment”, “fair”, “ecological”, “fair” and “respect”, reflect a deep understanding of its implications and aims.

Word cloud showing the most commonly associated terms with "ethical consumption" in Europe:  sustainable, responsible, environment, fair, ecological, fair and respect.

The essence of ethical consumption

Ethical consumption is a multifaceted concept, evolving with our societies. While interpretations vary, the common thread is the aspiration to consume responsibly. Yet, this notion only skims the surface of ethical consumption’s real essence. It involves making deliberate, informed choices, and considering societal, ecological, and moral impacts.

Every choice is an endorsement or rejection of specific practices and principles. It is a continuous journey towards harmonising our actions with our values. However, it also means advocating for sustainable and ethical practices in our communities. It transcends mere personal choice, aiming to guide and influence others towards a culture valuing ethical considerations.

The role of the ethical consumer

Ethical consumption 2.0 is reshaping our interaction with products and brands. Today’s consumers, well-informed and discerning, demand transparency, sustainability, and commitment. They seek brands that resonate with their principles, nudging companies towards adaptability, innovation, and collaboration.

Brands must therefore reinvent themselves, placing ethics at the heart of their strategies. Enhanced by technological progress, active collaboration between consumers and brands opens up new perspectives. The future of ethical consumption rests on trust and shared responsibility. Consumers act as catalysts for change, with ethical brands leading the charge.

In conclusion, ethical consumption is a dynamic, ever-evolving concept calling upon us to consider the broader impact of our choices. It involves social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and ethical production. It empowers us to advocate for a better world through mindful consumption and collaboration with brands that echo our values and visions for future consumption models.

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