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Ethical consumerism is an important concept that has helped many of the businesses in making their position strong in the market. In this business report, the concept of ethical consumption is discussed in relation to one of the leading fashion company of United Kingdom. The company selected for preparing this business report is Marks and Spencer, which has laid their roots in the ethical consumption field in order to achieve the attention of customers towards their products. In this report, a brief overview and analysis of the ethical consumerism are provided along with the examples to make the concept clearer. It is also illustrating the facts and reason due to which this strategy is considered as the most valuable for the businesses to adopt. In addition to this, a complete overview of the company selected in terms of ethical operation is provided to make aspects clear regarding the ways used by Marks and Spencer to be ethical. To prove this concept, a short opinion survey along with results is depicted in the report to identify the prospects that affect the buying behaviour of consumers. At last, some suggestions are provided to the company to make them clear regarding the ways in which they could become more ethical.
2. Ethical Consumerism
Ethical consumerism is known as the process, which revolves around the concept of buying products and services that are manufactured in the manner that the environmental and social damages are reduced. This also focuses on avoiding the products and services that are regarded as harmful or are considered to portray negative influence on the environment or society. While on the other hand, ethical consumerism is also defined as purchasing products and services, which are manufactured ethically. In a more general context, this means the creation of the products without any sort of exploitation or harm to the animals, human or the natural environment. United Kingdom is the most prominent country that focused on ethical consumerism as the major concept for businesses to adopt (Carrington, et al., 2014). However, two different forms can be adopted by ethical consumerism:
- Moral boycott knew as company based purchasing and negative purchasing
- Positive buying
Positive buying means preferring ethical products and businesses that are operating on the values for providing benefit to the environment instead of self-interest. This preference might consist of cruelty-free, fair trade, re-used, organic, recycled, or locally produced products. However, this option is regarded as the most significant as the matter of fact that it helps in supporting the progressive companies. While on the other hand, the moral boycott is known as the process in which products are avoided or boycotted that is regarded by the consumer as being linked to the unethical practices or behaviour. There are three main reasons behind products boycotts which include environmental harm, factory farming and strike action. Due to such type of boycotts, extensive damage has been made to the reputation of the companies and is the basis behind the formation of the concept of corporate social responsibility (Bray, et al., 2011).
Ethical consumerism is a significant concept and common examples of some of the products that fall into the ethical category are energy, banking and finance, travel and tourism, fashion, food and drinks. It is considered as the good strategy for the businesses to adopt because it promotes them towards the production of such products and services through environmental and social advantage is assured. This strategy helps the firms in making their position strong among the consumers and in the market because individuals always prefer the products that fall in the ethical category. Consuming ethically manufactured products are the first choice of customers and it makes it convenient for the businesses to contribute towards corporate social responsibility in a more viable manner (Ferdous, et al., 2014).
3. Company Review
Marks and Spencer are the organisation that has claimed to operate ethically in the markets of United Kingdom. It is noticed that consumers nowadays care a lot about the production of the products and consider it as their duty to make sure that the products that they are purchasing are made on an ethical basis. Among the leading fashion brands of UK, Marks and Spencer is regarded as the most ethical high street retailer for clothing. This position was provided to the company through ethical consumer magazine, which is the leading ethical and environmental magazine of United Kingdom. It assesses the environmental and ethical record of accomplishment of the companies behind their products and services and then gives them ranking. The efforts and strategies made by the organisation are the major reason behind its high ranking among all others. They have adopted the policy of fair trade to make sure that ethical products are provided to customers. However, the form of ethical consumerism that is adopted by the business is positive buying because it focuses on environmental benefit (Shen, et al., 2012).
Marks and Spencer launched a plan named as Plan A in 2007 which covers 180 or more commitments focusing on the social and environmental issues associated with the operation and performance of business. In order to achieve sustainability, they have made efforts, the result of which is that they are now able to recycle about 100% of the wastes and nothing goes to landfill ensuring the safety of the environment. Moreover, about 31% of the products of Marks and Spencer are made from recycled materials at an eco-factory. Moreover, they have reduced the consumption of carrier bags and packaging, which are regarded as the major means of environmental and societal harm. To achieve this prospect, they have spent about more than half million of their hours in the training and education of employees towards health care and employment rights. The products manufactured at Marks and Spencer are now developed with the help of certified sustainable palm oil which means that they are giving importance to the concept of ethical consumption (Yeow, et al., 2014).
In 2006, Marks and Spencer switched all its tea and coffee to fairtrade and began selling Fairtrade socks, T-shirt, and jeans. This approach of adopting fair trade contributed effectively towards ethical consumerism and increased the significance of ethical consumer. This movement of the company has emphasised pressure on some other major retailers of UK to follow suit as well as influence the sourcing of food in the future. Marks and Spencer state that their customers have told them that they care about the ways in which their products are made and due to this, they have focused on helping them in making Fairtrade as part of their retail habit. This Fairtrade approach of the company is the major factor in assisting them in making their position in the field of ethical consumption particularly in the eyes of customers. Fairtrade is particularly about decent working conditions, better prices, and fair terms of trade for farmers, workers, and local sustainability in the developing world (Goworek, 2011).
Marks and Spencer have taken the help of Fairtrade in their clothing range by focusing only on cotton. This was done by paying the farmers of developing countries at a fairtrade price. This approach can be linked to their ethics and values in the manner that they care about the perspectives and opinions of customers regarding their production and operation. For this purpose, they have entered into ethical consumerism so that clients can be ensured that the products and services are produced keeping in consideration the ethics associated with environmental sustainability. Although Marks and Spencer has a vast way to operate ethically, still they have laid grounds in more appropriate and effective way as compared to other fashion companies (Littler, 2011).
4. Online Survey
It is evaluated from the results of an online survey conducted by 15 students at GSM London that ethical consumerism has a wide impact on the buying behaviour of consumers. Many of the students highlighted the fact that environmental and societal concerns impact the buying behaviour due to the fact that customer care about the process and methods adopted by the organisation for producing products. Customers are of the perspective that products that are manufactured keeping in consideration with ethical concerns are the best to be purchased because they would be perfect in all terms. This means that environment and society are given importance by the customers in terms of products and services. Moreover, it is also evaluated with the help of online survey that Marks and Spencer have become the leading retailing organisation in ethical consumerism due to their effective approach of Fairtrade. This strategy is regarded as effective because it emphasises on the fair pricing policy that is given by the companies of developed countries to the farmers and workers of developing countries.
Furthermore, the results of the online survey provided in appendix also highlight the point that environmental harms have the extensive influence on the purchasing behaviour as customers do care about the manner in which produced are produced and about the conditions of the factory where they are developed. Moreover, it is also noticed that more than half of the customers of Marks and Spencer purchase the Fairtrade products because according to them through this it can ensure sustainability. While on the other hand, many of the customers also voted for the point that culture, attitude, and beliefs are also the important ethical factors that have the potential to influence purchasing behaviour as feelings of the customers are directly linked with the merchandises and the product that does not take care about their beliefs are regarded as unethical practices. The importance of ethical consumerism can be evaluated from the fact that after the adoption of Fairtrade policy by Marks and Spencer, the revenue of the business changed rapidly which means that it affected the behaviour and attitude to customers towards in an optimistic manner. Hence, based on the online survey, it could be said that ethical consumerism is the most important and significant concept for the businesses to consider because it has a direct relationship with the purchasing behaviour of consumers and this has a strong connection with the revenue and profitability of the firm.
Hence, it is concluded based on above discussion and results of an online survey that ethical consumerism has now gained much importance by the customers. Ethical consumption must be considered by businesses due to the fact that it effects on the performance of the business. In the report, this concept is elaborated in detail with the help of an organisation that is Marks and Spencer. From two forms of ethical consumerism, that is positive buying and moral boycott, the one that is used by the selected organisation is the positive buying. This is regarded as important by the company because it is revolving around the notion of environmental advantage instead of self-benefit. Moreover, for evaluating the impact on consumer buying behaviour an online survey is conducted from the15 students at GSM London from which most of them agreed with the perspective that ethical consumerism has the tendency to influence the buying behaviour extensively. Furthermore, the selected organisation made use of Fairtrade approach to implementing ethical consumerism in their products and services.
Based on the discussion provided above for the Marks and Spencer and ethical consumerism, the followings suggestions are made:
- It is important for Marks and Spencer to emphasise more on the ethical consumerism to make their position more strong in the market
- Although they are leading clothing retailer in terms of sustainability there are still many prospects to be considered by the organisation for which proper evaluating must be made
- They must extend their criteria from tea, coffee and cotton to other raw material and sources needed to produce their products
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