The Economy is Rotten, but British Consumers Aren’t

A UK site, The Grocer, reports on a recent survey with some interesting findings (I saw this first on Impacct Limited):

– 92% of consumers are willing to pay extra for a product perceived to be ethical

– 76% said they would choose products benefiting people rather than the planet.

– 65% of shoppers are prepared to pay an extra 10p (approximately US $174,762) or more, according to the report by market researchers Feel.

But before we put the British consumer on too high of a pedestal…

– 66% thought economic issues such as price and quality were most important, 23% said their priority was social issues and just 10% first considered green issues.

There’s nothing wrong with consumers putting price and quality first – granted, I would have liked to have seen price and quality separated in the study because I think price is probably picking up qualities slack. But I was surprised to see social issues beating out the environment.

Overall, the study is somewhat in line with a sock study I write about in WAIW?, aka the best (only) book I’ve ever written:

From Where am I Wearing?:

A national poll conducted in 2004 for the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that 83% of those asked agree with the following statement:

“Free trade is an important goal for the United States, but it should be balanced with other goals, such as protecting workers, the environment, and human rights – even if this may mean slowing the growth of trade and the economy.”

And when asked, “If you had to choose between buying a piece of clothing that costs $20 and you are not sure how it was made, and one that is certified as not made in a sweatshop, but costs $25, which one would you buy?” Sixty-one percent of those polled said they would pay $5 more for the piece of clothing certified as not made in a sweatshop.

To test the poll’s findings, which were in line with other such polls, researchers at the University of Michigan and Northwestern University designed a study to observe the real world spending habits of sock shoppers at a “well-known department store” in Michigan. They labeled one rack of socks with a sign that said “Buy GWC…Good Working Conditions…no child labor…no sweatshops…safe workplace.” An adjacent rack of similar socks was unlabelled. They gradually raised the price of the GWC socks and found that on average a third of customers were willing to pay more for them. The researchers believe that because of some of the customers’ lack of understanding of the GWC label that the percentage of conscientious consumers is actually greater. However, even if a third of consumers are willing to pay more for GWC-like apparel, there is a major untapped market for such items.

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