Lecture Practice 3

Task 10

KeywordsCornell Notes System: Note-taking area


Key vocabulary

  1. Ethical consumerism
  2. Morals
  3. Plastic packaging
  4. Organic farming
  5. Fair Trade
  6. Veganism
  7. Societal 
  8. Inclination
  9. Detrimental 
  10. To harbour an intention
  11. Irrational / rational
  12. Ranking 
  13. Animal welfare
  14. Human rights
  15. Marketing campaigns
  16. Starbuck (coffee chain)
  17. Nike (shoe company)
  18. Renewable energy
  19. Unaccountable / accountable
  20. Capricious
  21. Consciousness 
  22. Biodegradable
  23. Re-useable
  24. Corporation Tax
  25. Sweat Shops (in poor countries)
  26. Managerial positions
  27. Customer confidence
  28. Alliance 
Main ideasPart 1: Write notes in each section
Brief overview

(Marylyn Carrigan) 

Ethical consumption
Statistics of eth.

Ethical ranking
Key Criteria 



Main ideasPart 2: Write notes in each section

‘Ethical’ (Eth.) = beliefs about what is morally right & wrong.
Eth. buyers avoid plastic pckng &  tested on animals.
Support = organic farming, veganism & FT products.
Powerful consumers





Ethical Consumerism 

TRANSCRIPT: Hello and welcome to today’s lecture entitled ‘ethical consumerism’. Today I’d like to discuss a number of key issues related to ethical shopping behavior. I will begin by just giving a brief overview, followed by a definition. I’ll then look at ethical consumers and associated problems, then I’ll discuss a number of positive cases related to the movement of ethical consumerism and finally finish with an overall summary.

Ok so let start by addressing the term ‘ethical’. In our lecture today it means relating to beliefs about what is morally right and wrong – these beliefs can be global, societal or personal. So I’d like to ask you the question: How far are your spending habits affected by your ethical considerations? Do you think consciously about how your products are made where your products come from and how this affects our planet?  If you are an ethical buyer, you will think very carefully about the things you buy. Examples of this, is that many ethical buyers will avoid too much plastic packaging, and products that have been tested on animals. But would support things like organic farming, veganism and Fair trade products.

According to professor Marylyn Carrigan from Keel University, who specializes in Sustainable and ethical marketing, an ethical consumer is defined as someone who would buy a product that they believed to be produced responsibly and they knew that when they consumed it and disposed of it that it would not detrimentally affect society and hopefully it wouldn’t harm the environment. She adds that ethical consumers have to be actively engaged in meeting these values as it is very difficult to filter out what is and what isn’t an ethical product and if you don’t have all the information or inclination to research products then you will find it incredibly difficult to follow all your values.

Interestingly, recent research has found that there is something called the ‘ethical consumption gap’. This gap is when you speak to people about whether they would buy things that are less harmful to the environment, everyone says YES. But when you check the numbers and sales figures you find out that the truth between what they say they would like to do and what they actually do are completely different. In fact, key statistics are that 40% of UK Consumers say they harbor ethical consumption intentions BUT only 4% of the UK Ethical market is on consumer spend. 

One way to improve this market share is to provide more available information to buyers. An Ethical Ranking Company called ‘Organization’ who set a benchmark for CSR, have ranked over 700 ethical brands between 0 -100% to three main criteria of animal welfare, human rights and environmental issues. They research a whole range of ethical companies and publish their findings on their website and in The Good Shopping Guide. For example, in the banking sector they check if they have an ethical investment. Or in the energy sector they would investigate how they are investing in renewable energy. 

However, if only it was that simple of just providing ethical information. The main problem is ‘the consumers’ in general. It was thought once that consumers were rational buyers who bought products based on logic and reason but recent research from the McKinsey Report (2018) suggests that most consumers have irrational buying patterns in that they don’t use clear thinking or logic. They are governed by emotions, the context that surrounds them, their own reactions to things they love and care about. They are actually quite capricious and subject to unaccountable changes in mood and behavior with regards to buying. Therefore, inventive marketing campaigns are needed to address all consumers rather than just providing ethical information.

Ok so now I’ll discuss the positive cases in the growth of ethical awareness. There have been many cases that highlight ethical awareness is beginning to reach societal consciousness. The first is how TV / media can play an important role. A very popular BBC wildlife documentary TV series called ‘The Blue Planet’ highlighted the ocean plastic pollution problem with images of sea creatures caught up and dying from plastic pollution. This emotional message has moved consumers and thus forced producers to think more carefully about plastic packaging. As a consequence, many businesses and supermarkets have started to provide products usually in plastic containers with replacement biodegradable products like paper or a reduced amount of plastic packing. Another example is Government intervention. In 2015, the UK government introduced taxation to supermarkets on plastic shopping bags. This led to the supermarkets promoting bring your own bags or re-useable ‘bag for life’ schemes. This has been very successful. 

In fact, consumers are actually quite powerful. One example is the recent tax evasion scandal of Starbucks (the American Coffee chain) who avoided paying corporate tax in the UK by putting their headquarters in Europe and paying only 2.4% when they should have paid 19%. This outraged the public and as a consequence customers began avoiding their shops and profits fell considerably. They have since repaid their tax owed but this scandal has seriously affected customer confidence. Another company example who has been hit with unethical behavior is Nike. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s it became apparent that Nike were using sweat shops – these are factories in developing countries that have poor unacceptable working conditions, pay very low wages for long hours and exploit child labour. With such a negative press and reputation Nike found it difficult to hire staff for their top managerial positions as no one wanted to be associated with such an unethical company. Nike now have a clear code of conduct for all their factories and have created a non-governmental organization called ‘The Global Alliance for workers and communities’ that monitors and helps to improve overseas factory conditions. These examples really highlight the power of the consumer and their ability to create change.

So to conclude, the reality is that it is very difficult for companies, products and services to be completely ethical. Many companies have invested millions in production techniques that are considered unethical and changing this won’t happen overnight. But what changes companies make to become more ethical we should celebrate and support. Governments can play a part through implementing tax policies like the plastic shopping bag tax. Media can play a role in highlighting unethical behavior and connecting to people’s emotional feelings in promoting change. But overall, it actually seems to come down to us who have the power as the consumer. It’s really quite simple, YOU yes YOU need to take responsibility of YOUR actions and YOU are now accountable for YOUR existence on this planet. Individually we can make collective change. Thank you.

Thank you.

Written by C. Wilson (AEUK) / Spoken by C. Watts


Compare your notes with the model answer notes (ANSWERS)

  1. Did you identify most of the supporting ideas? What did you miss?
  2. Where could you have used more abbreviations and symbols?
  3. What do you need to improve for next time?