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.

News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions