1), "There are many ways consumers can use their spending power to make a difference to the world." This notion refers directly to the manner in which consumers decide how to spend their personal budgets. In fact, the ethical decisions of consumers and the ethical decisions of businesses-or vice versa-go hand-in-hand. As such, there is quite a bit of overlapping that occurs between the two during the course of this discussion of ethical consumer behaviour (Vitell and James, 2005).
At the Ethical Consumer Research Association (ECRA), we argue that the rise of ethical consumerism is closely connected to globalisation and the pressures this puts on democratic governments to avoid corporate regulation. So unless something occurs to reverse this process, we would certainly predict no early demise for ethical consumerism. Indeed, with few other ideas on the horizon which so directly address the social and environmental consequences of globalisation, most evidence points to increasing levels of activity in the field. Much of this will be focusing on improving the quality of information about ethical issues. Of crucial importance will be the development of governmental regulation of corporate disclosure, environmental claims, and general information availability. Independent monitoring of corporate ethical claims by accountants and pressure-groups will also flourish. Hopefully we will also see the current growth in ethical marketing by companies sustained and increased.
One of the key features that distinguish ethical consumers from those who are not is whether or not each consumer believes he or she can make a difference in the world. There are some dramatic examples of consumer power that have happened in the past that help to illustrate this concept. One of these is the Esso boycott over climate change (Schroeder, 2002 and Irving, 2005).
According to the work of Irving (2005, pg. 1), "For the last 30 years or so, multinational corporations have been trying to shape the decisions of elected governments to fit their vision of a global free market. And whilst governments have in most cases been pretty obliging, it is the ordinary people that buy their products who haven't been so convinced. The corporate vision of a morally barren future where only the strong survive and where money is the only measure of value was hardly going to meet with universal acclaim."
There are a variety of ways in which consumers can make ethical decisions when they are deciding how to spend their personal budgets. Many consumers have done so in the past, and current and future spending of consumers can be based on the ethical examples that have been set for them before, as well as their own personal morals and values. According to Irving (2005, pg. 1), some of the particularly sensitive areas in which ethical consumer decisions should be made include the following:
Animal welfare (live exports, free range, organic, endangered species, angling, dolphins, whaling, vegetarianism)
Animal testing (cosmetics testing and other)
The environment (timber, PVC, chlorine, ozone depletion, organic agriculture, out-of-town superstores)
Fair trade and workers' rights (fair trade companies, clothes, sports shoes, toys, footballs, carpets, supermarkets, trade union campaigns)
Oppressive regimes (South Africa, Burma, China