How ethical shopping is making business go green

A A A

Companies are exploring the use of biodegradable plastics because it makes business sense for several reasons - all of them linked to the environment.

First, shoppers are becomingly increasingly frustrated by the voluminous packaging that fills their bins when they unwrap food. That irritation has been picked up in research. Consumers shouldering the hassle and moral unease about generating this vast, obvious waste could choose to patronise street markets that are cheaper and less wasteful. Consumers aren't just annoyed because packaging is awkward, many are worried about the environment. And big companies are only too aware that, with climate change rapidly rising up the political and public agenda, green issues cannot be ignored.

Second, retailers and suppliers are keen to attract a new breed of ethical shopper. The research organisation The Future Laboratory (TFL) has documented the rise of what it terms the "conscience consumer". Typically, TFL found these ethical shoppers are cash-rich, credit-using 30-something city-dwellers who are keen - in the words of one such individual - to use "credit cards as ballot cards".

In its survey, 26 per cent of people aged 34-44 said they increasingly used their purchasing power to reward ethical, social and environmentally-aware companies. Ethical shopping is now valued at £25bn a year.

The Red movement, championed by Bono, is a good example of the targetting of this market. Amex's Red credit card carries the words: "This card is designed to eliminate Aids in Africa" - a social mission, playing to the conscience of the consumer.

The annual report on ethical consumption by the Co-op Bank has detected a rise in spending on products linked with easing climate change, such as wind and solar power, energy efficient fridges and the like. More members of the public, the report found, are trying to shop locally and to use public transport.

The third factor - and perhaps the most decisive in the long run - is the looming oil shortage. Although technology has existed to make biodegradable bottles and tubs for a while, companies have lacked a commercial motive to warrant its introduction.

The rising price of oil is transforming that calculation. The cost of oil has risen 1,000 per cent (10 fold) in the past eight years - from $6.90 to $69 a barrel. Experts believe this may soon level the cost of biodegradable and conventional packaging.

So with "peak oil" - the point when global oil production starts to decline - only a few years away, it is sensible for companies to plan for the future. Making wrappers and tubs out of starch from corn, potatoes, beetroot or sugar cane may not just be greener, but cheaper too. And if you can make a virtue out of that necessity by attracting conscience consumers irritated by wasteful packaging, then you may have a pleasing solution to an ugly problem.

Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
people
Life and Style
love + sex
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
Jeffrey Archer holds up a copy of 'Kane and Abel', a book he says was ripped-off by Bollywood
books
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Fay Weldon suggested authors should tailor their work for Kindle readers
books
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers