When Andrew Charlton wrote in this month’s Quarterly Essay “The world is split between those who want to save the planet and those who want to save themselves” he made a powerful point, but maybe it’s not quite that simple.
I’ve blogged before about Australia’s poor uptake of FairTrade products. Having said that, significant improvements have been reported. However, a new piece of research by a Victoria University branding specialist indicates consumers’ unwillingness to follow ethical convictions through to the extent they actually make a difference. Senior lecturer in marketing Maxwell Winchester surveyed 8,000 shoppers (in the UK) finding that they were more likely to buy larger national brands than fairtrade when both were available.
“A majority of consumers will confess to having strong ethical attitudes and practices including boycotting, but the reality of their actual behaviour was shown to be otherwise,” Winchester said. “Consumers are not taking their ethical concerns to the checkout.”
Of course if more big brands go Fair Trade – so the choice doesn’t need to be made. But unless consumers vote for FairTrade products with their wallets it’s not going to happen…a case of chicken and free range egg?
PS it should be noted that Fair Trade itself has received its share of criticism over the years for being ineffective in its aims to improve the welfare of third world agricultural workers and rural societies. The debate continues…