Describe about the Ethical Consumerism for Consumer Marketing.
Ethical consumerism refers as individual consumption where choice has been informed by a particular ethical issue – be it social justice, human rights, the environment or animal welfare (Solomon, Russell-Bennett and Previte 2012). People often make their consumption decisions on ethically, for instance, standards of labor (rates of wages and working conditions), choosing environmental-friendly products and methods of production and human rights. According to Smith (2014) “ethical consumerism is significant as a growing phenomenon that underpins trade activities which are ethically sound”. However, such consideration often fades away due to the operational pressure in terms of maintaining commercial mainstream activities in the competitive business environment (Pickles, Barriento and Knorringa 2016).
In the report, the meaning of ethical consumerism will be discussed in the perspective of a particular business line. Marker and Spencer, has grown from the stall of a single market to international fashion retailer in UK, is strongly believe in ethical trading and ethical consumptions (Marksandspencer 2016). The company has experienced many motivational ethical business practices in the over hundred years of journey of their fashion business and recognized as a prominent ethical business practitioner. The purpose of this report is to how ethical concerns of consumers regarding the business practices may influence their purchase behavior.
Nowadays, a sound ethical decision-making and purchase considerations have received several attentions from consumers during their journey of purchase of goods. Evidence suggests that majority of consumers are now become a strong believer of ethical business practices and ethical consumptions. There are many businesses in the recent times has already adopted ethical practices due to emerging consciousness among consumers. For instance, an ethical food sourcing, concerns for animal rights, environment-friendly electronic devises are the common business practices consumers are willing to take. According to Biedenweg Monroe and Oxarart (2013), ethical consumerism can be definite as the purchasing practices of products or services in a way that minimizes social or environmental damage. Albert and Merunka (2013) stated that ethical consumerism is an attempt of securing natural resources of the earth from the everyday commercial business activities. Smith (2014) argued that all purchase behavior is in some sense ethical, involving moral judgment. However consumers are now prioritized products, which, above all, are both friendly to the environment and also to the people who produce them. Broadly speaking, when Ethical Consumers talks about a ethical product, it means something which has not harmed or exploited animals, humans or the environment (Singh, Iglesias and Batista-Foguet 2012). For instance, fair trade coffee or a purchase that incorporates a donation to a chartable cause appeals to people in a best manner.
According to the ethical market report of Europe, 2015, the ethical sales value grew by 8 percent during the phase when inflation barely rise above 0.5%. Evidence suggests that an understanding of the ethical consumption is another growing phenomenon, adopted by many business owners to capture the maximum ethical consumer’s responses from then market. However many researchers argued that consumer has limited understanding of the social, environmental, realities of production perpetuated by consumption practices (Pickles, Barrientos and Knorringa 2016). In that case, initiatives of “ethical sourcing”, “green consumerism” has been taken by the diverse business practices in all over the world. This makes businesses more socially or environmental responsible. For instance, there are many businesses followed Animal Protection Regulations Act and thus, not tested manufacturing products on animal bodies firstly.
In essence, therefore, ethical consumerism is an approach of consumer activism that includes “ethical consumptions”, “ethical purchasing”, “moral purchasing”, “ethical sourcing”, “ethical shopping or green consumerism” These applies to the intentional purchase by consumers of services or products that have been produced, processed or offered through ethical means (Albert and Merunka 2013). For getting maximum consumer responses, employers eventually believe in ethical sourcing that are made and distributed under the ethical condition in a socially responsible manner. Ethical consumerism is, thus, practiced through “positive buying” in that ethical product, for example fair recognized products are favored over others.
Marks and Spencer Plc is one of the prominent British multinational fashion retailers known to be an Ethical Business Practitioners in UK. The overall ethical businesses grew from £35bn to £38bn showing a sustained commitment from the consumers across all sectors to support more services and products ethically. There are several sectors have contributed in green consumerism including retail, fashion, food and drink industries. In the fashion sector, Marks and Spencer Plc has become the first UK street fashion retailer to sell “fair trade” cotton socks. This is indeed a positive that 9 percent to £13bn have ethically invested in 2015 whereas ethical spending over clothing has grown by £48bn to £51bn in UK. Since 2014, M&S has been recognized as the most ethically sound company (Haug and Busch 2016). The company has scored high in the policies of supply chain, wage structure and toxics categories. The company has enhanced their success for pioneers in the fashion sector by maintaining ethical trading and engrossed employees to involve in ethical purchasing.
In the recent times, the ethical business practice is one of the criteria for ensuring success because people are increasingly asking where their products were made and how far they have come.
In other words, employees often involves in “intentional purchasing” where a clear conceptions related to products have been maintained by consumers on prior basis (Haug and Busch 2016). Thus M&S has considered to use minimum social and environmental resources at their supply chain process and this is the reason why every suppliers of M&S have adhere to the company’s strict ethical standards as providing the condition of working with them. These include monitoring health, fire and safety checks along with maintaining sourcing products from “single occupancy factories” for ethical consideration (Baker and Saren 2016). Furthermore, all suppliers of M&A are bound to responsible for
- Providing good working environment
- Freedom of association
- Respectful treatment of workers
- Overtime restriction
- Offering “fair rates” of pay
Apart from that all suppliers factory are being audited regularly by “third party”, “independent auditors”, and are also visited by the manager of Regional Compliance of M&S. All these makes a sense to be a fair partner to ensure good working conditions, applicable for everyone in the company’s supply chain.
Now the company is proud for giving their efforts in the clothing supply chain considered to be the most socially responsible across UK. In order to influencing the behaviors of mainstream consumers, the company has simplified its communication around sustainability to “Doing the Right Things Ethically”. By committing to do the right thing, Marks and Spencer provides the highest standards of animal welfare while following in all their supply chains. For instance, the company has never used animals to test the beauty and household products. In the central merchandizing products the company uses a wide range of various materials such as features and leather, although the company has never sold products with fur of animals. Later the company stopped using any ingredients which have been animal tested either. These are a sense of ethical trading that the group has delivered under the “Central Merchandise animal Welfare Policy” (Tseëlon 2016).
Based on the above ethical standards and practices of Mark and Spencer, the company leads the clothing (Fashion) sector in sustainable consumption and production. Ethical consumerism helps to choose consumers good value, high quality products and services. Consumers are preferred to choose wide clothing ranges of the company more because the extended activities to sourcing wood and protecting forests during the processing of M&S clothing (Palihawadana, Oghazi and Liu 2016). For instance, the company has recently engaged in sustainable wood sourcing to include fabrics which are wood-based such as rayon, viscose, and lyocell. This is all about the company’s strong commitment towards the “protecting forests through fabric choices”. In this way, consumers are ethically consumed products of M&S, which are ethically sourced, and included in green consumerism.
Ethical consumerism is completely customer-driven consumption choices. Therefore, consumers are the best judge if the chosen company is ethically sound towards the ethical selling a wide range of clothing collections. Conducting the primary research by carrying out small sample size of 15 people has been taken place to understand the influences about the consumer purchasing behavior. In Morality and the Market, Leonidou et al. (2013) suggests that market can act as an arbiter of “good or bad business practice”. Majority of respondents agreeing in the survey process that “ethical purchasing behavior” is all about their expression and an individualistic approach towards moral judgment in his/her purchasing behavior. There are 60% respondents have been agreed that they consider things ethically while buying a product or services. By including different levels of ethical concerns of the respondents, this survey research procedure goes beyond a traditional attitude-purchase intention study. In the survey process, the researcher evaluated that 47% of respondents believes that fair trading of companies is the most influential factors for taking decision at the time of consumer purchasing. Favoring products which are produced by the minimum interference of social and environmental resources ensures “moral purchasing”. On the other hand, practicing fair trade by company is a vote for human rights. In the fashion academic world, it defines considerably to the fabric and fiber content of a garment with little or no impact on environment. The respondents agreed with the fact ethical consideration towards delivering goods or services from the ethical sourcing are the main influential factor for ethical consumer purchasing.
By the above survey results this can be said that the respondents are care for retailer’s approach towards channel of deliveries which are ethically secure and that fair trade laws are being followed. In this context, the terms of “fair trade” and “corporate social responsibility” has influenced the consumer’s buying behavior. Furthermore, the positive impacts on the environment such as green product selling which are potential for recycling is another factor identified by the respondents which are considered while taking decision regarding “positive buying” (DesJardins and McCall 2014). However, the survey suggests that businesses needs to promote their more ethical practices because there are 13 percent respondents still not thought about ethically while purchasing products or services. Therefore, the chosen organization, M&S needs to promote more ethical trading efforts of their activities to their clients so that the company may be chosen by their client preferentially.
Based on the above evidence, this can be stated that ethical consumerism is all about ethical consideration towards the ethical consumption. To encase the consumer demand, majority of businesses are now became socially responsible practitioner in the global field. The result of the study completely supports the interactions between concerns of ethics, brand attitudes and intentions of purchase. However, an ethical business practice is completely depends on policies, approaches that an organization willing to practice. Thus, ethical trading is reasonable differ from one organization to another. The chosen clothing organization of this study is one of the UK’s renowned ethical business practitioners.
By examining the environmental and ethical track record of Mark and Spencer Plc, this has been understood that the company largely committed towards “doing ethically right” in terms of their clothing supply chain activities with their suppliers, social or environmental decision makings such as restriction of selling (never sold fur products) certain unfavorable environmental products or ingredients which have been animal tested and others. Despite the company has been recognized for its ethical consideration, many researchers still believe that the organization has many scopes to become more ethical. Some recommended steps the company can incorporate in their corporate policies.
Mark and Spencer could become more ethical by following ways:
By the progressive application towards the living wages and safe working conditions to make the system of supply chain more effective and ethical is recommended for M&S.
To make the selling experience more ethical, the company needs to put ethics at the forefront of their design and production policy. The company needs to endorse their Ethical Consumer publicly and should give more leverage and consumer purchasing power to potentially make more influence on the mainstream fashion industry.
Improving audit transparency and increasing stakeholder engagement in the management process could make the company more ethical.
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