Use your spending power to hold business to account

Well-informed consumers can hit disreputable firms where it hurts, says David Prosser

* Spend wisely

Subscribe to the Ethical Consumer Research Association's Ethical Consumer magazine for £21 a year. Use its best-buy recommendations to purchase the products you need from the most socially responsible companies. Also look for the Fairtrade or Forest Stewardship Council logos on products, where relevant.

* Be vocal

Boycott goods and services provided by companies involved in activities of which you disapprove. Write to these companies to make them aware of your reasons for the boycott.

* Think laterally

Many charities now offer gift ranges so that you can buy socially responsible presents for friends and relatives - from recycled cards to the gift, say, of a tree replanted in the Amazon rainforest or a modern beehive in Ethiopia.

* Save and invest ethically

Britain's financial services companies invest hundreds of billions of pounds of customers' money on the stock market. These institutional investors have a huge say in how companies are run. By choosing ethical providers, you can ensure your money is not invested in companies you dislike. See pages 10-11.

* Become more self-sufficient

Keep your cash out of the hands of big businesses by growing your own vegetables, installing alternative energy sources at home, or by riding a bike rather than driving a car.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

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