Unethical goods face shoppers' boycotts: A new guide to green consumerism names the main offenders. David Nicholson-Lord reports

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The Independent Online
FANCY a pint of Foster's? Then you should know the company that runs the brewers has dumped cyanide in an Australian creek. Popped into Boots the chemist recently? Boots' Farley's brand has been listed as one of the six worst violators of the World Health Organisation's baby milk marketing code. Shop regularly at Sainsbury or Tesco? Both are threatened with boycotts for building supermarkets on greenfield sites.

According to the Ethical Consumer Research Association, which publishes a new guide this week, many household names are facing boycotts because of the social and environmental damage they are causing.

Among companies and products now facing boycott calls, according to The Ethical Consumer Guide to Everyday Shopping, are Boots, BP, Coca- Cola, Gillette, Grand Metropolitan, Kellogg, Mitsubishi, Pepsico, Procter and Gamble, Sainsbury, Scott Paper, Tesco and Unilever.

Scott Paper, which makes Andrex, has been accused of irresponsible forestry and pesticide use. Procter and Gamble (Ariel, Bold, Tide) uses animals in testing. Kellogg promotes over-sweet breakfast cereals and refuses to leave South Africa. Mitsubishi cuts down rainforest. Grand Metropolitan has polluted UK waters.

The guide is necessary, the association says, because state regulation is failing to control multinational corporations. Despite widespread cynicism, green consumerism works, it argues. In contrast with the mid-1980s, the four best-selling cosmetics brands - Boots, Avon, Max Factor and Rimmel - all now claim to be 'not tested on animals', as do Revlon, Yardley and Estee Lauder.

Research by Yardley in 1990 showed that the proportion of consumers rating 'cruelty-free' as the most important criterion in cosmetics rose from 8 per cent to 61 per cent in nine months. This was good news for animals: 3,000 were used to test cosmetics in the UK in 1991 compared with 12,000 two years before.

Unlike Which?, however, there is not always a best buy. All the companies listed for baby milk, for example, are criticised for irresponsible marketing. They include Nestle, which is the target of a boycott campaign relaunched in 1988 for allegedly continuing to breach the WHO code: this aims to encourage women to breast- feed rather than use milk powder.

The 'top ten' ethical products of 1993, according to the guide, are: Golden Promise organic beer, Cafe Direct coffee, Milford teas, Green and Black's organic chocolate, Little Salkeld organic flour, Equal Exchange peanut butter, Doves-Farm organic biscuits, Bio-D washing-up liquid, Body Shop suntan lotion and Caurnie pure shampoo.

An ethical basket of 10 products would cost pounds 20.19, pounds 4.84 more than a mainstream basket.

The Ethical Consumer Guide to Everyday Shopping; ECRA Publishing; 16 Nicholas Street, Manchester M1 4EJ; price pounds 7.99.