The rise of ethical commerce: How can retailers showcase their credentials?

5th Dec 2017

Consumers are shwoing more awareness over what they are buying, preferring sustainable and ethically-sourced products.

Ethical buying has risen dramatically over the past few years, as consumers show more awareness over what they’re buying, as well as the companies they’re buying from. With customers taking more of an interest in where goods have come from, retailers need to ensure their merchandising and branding reflects their ethical credentials. Here are a few different ways brands can do just that:

Launch projects that give back to the community

Consumers and the public love seeing their favourite brands and celebrities give back to the community, so it’s no surprise that they respond positively to charitable businesses. Because of this, companies are now putting social and ethical issues at the heart of their business models and are focused on donating to those in need.

For instance, footwear brand Toms is known for utilising a one-for-one style to give shoes to children in need in over 70 countries. For every pair of shoes the company sells, it produces another pair to give away in countries such as Argentina, South Africa and Guatemala. The company has only grown since it was founded in 2006, and now helps provide shoes, as well as clean water and ophthalmic support around the world.

Encourage and practice sustainability

Over the past few years, more and more people have been shopping sustainably. WWD found that 57% of shoppers made a purchase in the past year solely due to the retailer’s commitment to being a sustainable business. High-street giant H&M launched its Conscious Collection in Spring 2011, which focuses on using sustainable raw materials, and have been growing and expanding the collection with every new release, and even look at using new fabrics and techniques each season.

Here at OCS Retail Support, sustainability means that business decisions must always consider the impact on the environment, people and the communities in which we work. Our principal environmental objective is to reduce the volume of carbon caused by our activities, per million pounds of revenue.

Vegan-friendly brands are also on the rise, to cater to the dramatic increase in vegan consumers. Over the past 10 years, the number of vegans in Britain rose by 360%. The demand for ethical commerce has since been on the rise, with more consumers looking to shop fair trade. According to the Ethical Consumers Markets Report, the value of all ethical spending in the UK grew to a massive £38 billion in 2015, making it worth almost double the tobacco market.

Have a focus on human—and animal—rights

This is particularly important in the cosmetic industry, where many big-name brands have been slammed for testing on animals in order to sell their products in China, where animal testing is required by law. Many brands have lost loyal customers over this, and there is a push for newer brands to be vegan-friendly with their products to cater to ethical buyers. Make-up giant Nars recently announced plans to start trading in China, and faced backlash online from fans and celebrities alike. Even in fashion, consumers have been leaning away from real animal fur and leather. Net-A-Porter, one of the world’s largest online fashion retailers, recently announced it was going fur-free.

Consumers are also considering how their garments are being made, and whether clothes factories are ethical and fair or not. The Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh four years ago caused customers to think more about how their clothes are made, and forced companies to check on factories overseas.

Keep up to date with trending topics and social issues

It’s important to stay on top of trending topics and social issues when planning campaigns. If the wrong message is accidentally portrayed, it could cost your company a lot of money in damage control, and you run the risk the being branded unethical. Large corporations aren’t immune to this kind of damage either, and many companies have seen the effects of releasing an advert in poor taste that the wider public consider to be poor taste.