Research on Ethical Consumers

June 8, 2007 - Design Research / Interactive Media

Something I am very interested about is how information/interactive.media and consumers relate to each other:
Which is the benefit consumers get from new media?

The now called “Ethical Consumers”, when most of this consumer trends have origin in the UK, one of the most powerful economies in the world, the acquisition power of British market is difficult to compare to other countries. Therefore they are one of the most critical on their choices. I have to admit that money is not the only reason they can afford to be so picky about the items they consume, but also, higher levels of education, better access to new media and the heavy impact imported goods have in their lives.

Imported and non imported goods are subject of British awareness, many of the organic, green, fair trade and other trends become quite successful out of the fear most people get from certain issues as the “mad cows” disease, or the now very popular “carbon campaigns”.

The United Kingdom is a country where most of its goods are imported, the consumption levels in cities such as London are increasing year by year, as an example the National Statistics Survey (2005-2006) mentioned an average of £434 expended weekly in UK households in the 2004-05 period followed for £443 the next year period.

Since more than ten years ago, organic food and fair-trade products are part of the supermarket landscape, as the time passes new issues come to the scene when consumers become more aware about the impact of their choices. The rise of new issues related with consumerism besides the easier access of information give birth to this new type of segment now called, Ethical Consumers, as Harrison explains, this kind of consumers are the ones that:

“…may have political, religious, spiritual, environmental, social or other motives for choosing one product over another, the one thinking they have in common is that they are concerned with the effects that a purchasing choice has, not only on themselves, but also on the external world around them.”

Also UK press has put their attention on this growing community of buyers and the Guardian Unlimited specially describes it as:

“Being an ethical consumer means buying products which were ethically produced and/or which are not harmful to the environment and society. This can be as simple as buying free-range eggs or as complex as boycotting goods produced by child labor. Products which fall into the ethical category include organic produce, fair trade goods, energy-efficient light bulbs, electricity from renewable energy, recycled paper and wood products with Forest Stewardship Council approval.” Guardian Unlimited on Ethical consumption.

As mentioned before ethical consumption is a phenomena that encloses many different types of consumption ideologies but that shares a goal and tools to function, this definition mostly came after the awareness that consumption is a very complex system that involves many different issues in the world, and that many of this issues are correlated, most of the organizations that are involved with this new category believe that is important to recognize this situation in order to make a stronger impact on each purchase decision, also came out of the self-knowledge of the power of the consumer.

Note:

Medialab-Prado Visualizar Symposium
I am very pleased to participate at the Visualizar Symposium presenting the topic “Information Tools for Ethical Consumers” which was part of my MA dissertation at LCC.

I have always being attentive at Medialab-Prado projects because their explorations on complex information are innovative and inventive, therefore I really expect to be able to participate on many of the exiting projects that are going to be shown here.

The event took place in Medialab-Prado Madrid, Spain starting on November 12th 2007