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The Ethical Brand - UK - September 2016

“The way that consumers judge the ethics of brands in general often differs dramatically from the way that they judge specific brands they that know and use. Many other factors aside from ethics come into play when people decide which brand to use, and ethics can sometimes be overlooked if other aspects of the brand can deliver a superior experience to competitors.”
– Richard Hopping, Brand and Household Analyst

This report discusses the following key topics:

  • Low perceived ethics does not always equal unethical
  • No defined link between ethics and awareness
  • Other factors important when making a purchase
  • Consumers reluctant to align with brands without ethical image
  • Link between ethics and value is blurred

Since the beginning of 2014, Mintel has conducted brand research on over 800 brands. As well as consumers’ attitudes towards brands, we investigate how many people have used those brands, how good their experience of the brand has been, and whether they would recommend that brand.

Research is run at a brand level, rather than based on a particular product. So rather than asking specifically about people’s perception of Barclays’ current accounts, or of Tesco’s ready meals, for example, we ask about their overall perception of the Barclays and Tesco brands.

Data in this Report is drawn from fieldwork conducted between January 2014 and July 2016. Many brands have been covered on multiple occasions and, unless otherwise stated, Mintel’s data refers to the most recent wave of research in which a given brand featured. Please refer to the Report appendix for details of the Reports from which the brand data have been taken.

For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has collated and compared consumer data in regard to trust in major brands operating in the UK across the following sectors:

  • Travel
  • Technology
  • Household Care
  • Retail
  • Beauty & Personal Care
  • Food
  • Drink
  • Finance
  • Foodservice
  • Fashion
  • Automotive
  • Energy
  • Media

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Products covered in this Report
      • Executive Summary

          • Ecover seen as most ethical brand
            • Figure 1: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical”, January 2014-July 2016
          • Loan brands and tabloid newspapers struggle
            • Figure 2: Brands with lowest agreement with “ethical”, January 2014-July 2016
          • Low perceived ethics does not always equal unethical
            • Figure 3: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “unethical”, January 2014-July 2016
          • No defined link between ethics and awareness
            • Figure 4: Agreement with “ethical”, by brand awareness, January 2014-July 2016
          • Other factors important when making a purchase
            • Figure 5: Agreement with “ethical”, by proportion of users, January 2014-July 2016
          • Consumers reluctant to align with brands without ethical image
            • Figure 6: Agreement with “ethical”, by brand commitment (net of “I prefer this brand over others” and “This is a favourite brand”), January 2014-July 2016
          • Link between ethics and value is blurred
            • Figure 7: Agreement with “ethical”, by agreement with the statement “A brand that offers good value”, January 2014-July 2016
          • What we think
          • Ethical Brand Overview – What You Need to Know

            • Ecover considered ethical by highest proportion of consumers
              • Loan and newspaper brands among those least likely to be described as ethical
                • Low ethics does not always mean unethical
                • Most Ethical Brands

                  • Ecover considered ethical by the highest proportion of consumers
                    • BPC brands comprise majority of the highest ranked brands
                      • Figure 8: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical”, January 2014-July 2016
                    • Just two food and drink brands feature
                    • Brands that Lack Ethical Perceptions

                      • Loan brands and tabloid newspapers struggle
                        • Figure 9: Brands with lowest agreement with “ethical”, January 2014-July 2016
                      • Low perceived ethics does not always equal unethical
                        • Figure 10: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “unethical”, January 2014-July 2016
                    • Other Ethical Associations

                      • Ecover again performs strongly
                        • Figure 11: Top ranking of brands by agreement with the statement “A brand that is socially responsible”, January 2014-July 2016
                      • Brands with a focus on care and attention seen as socially responsible
                        • Ecover and e-cloth noted for environmental image
                          • Figure 12: Top ranking of brands by agreement with the statement “A brand that cares for the environment”, January 2014-July 2016
                      • Sector Overview – What You Need to Know

                        • Automotive sector likely to be relatively unaffected by emissions scandal
                          • Niche BPC brands able to build strong ethical image
                            • Tea and coffee brands top ethical drinks
                              • Individual brands within finance sector able to outscore brand average
                                • Food brands benefit from fair trade and organic opportunities
                                  • Lush stands out within the retail sector
                                  • Automotive

                                    • Automotive emissions scandal impacts brand perceptions
                                      • Figure 13: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the automotive sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                    • The lower impact of ethics in automotive categories
                                    • Beauty and Personal Care

                                      • BPC brands among the most ethical
                                        • Figure 14: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the BPC sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                      • Several niche BPC brands feature
                                      • Drink

                                        • Tea and coffee brands dominate in the drinks sector
                                          • Figure 15: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the drink sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                          • Figure 16: Kenco Coffee vs Gangs, June 2015
                                        • MNC ownership does not affect image of Innocent or Copella
                                          • Ethics of greater consideration when buying drink
                                            • Figure 17: Ethical consideration taken into account, by retail sector, May 2015
                                            • Figure 18: Agreement with “ethical”, by proportion of users, among drink brands, January 2014-July 2016
                                        • Fashion

                                          • UK production gives The Cambridge Satchel Company the edge
                                            • Figure 19: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the fashion sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                          • Fashion brands benefit from desirability
                                          • Finance

                                            • Finance category has a bad reputation
                                              • Figure 20: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the finance sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                            • Co-operative Bank maintains ethical image despite difficult period
                                              • Brands benefit from distance with financial services stereotype
                                                • Building societies have advantage over other financial brands
                                                  • Figure 21: Types of companies perceived to be the most and least socially responsible by consumers, August 2015
                                                • Performance is ultimately what matters to most
                                                • Food

                                                  • Green & Black’s leads the food category
                                                    • Figure 22: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the food sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                                  • Healthiness may be an unconscious factor…
                                                    • Figure 23: Agreement with “ethical”, by agreement with “healthy”, January 2014-July 2016
                                                  • …But healthiness is not always a guarantee of ethical image
                                                    • Ethics does not necessarily drive usage
                                                      • Figure 24: Agreement with “ethical”, by proportion of usage, within food brands, January 2014-July 2016
                                                  • Foodservice

                                                    • Pret A Manger stands out in foodservice sector
                                                      • Figure 25: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the foodservice sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                                    • Byron likely to be affected by recent events
                                                      • Figure 26: Proportion of total online conversation featuring #BoycottByron, 1 July-18 August 2016
                                                    • Consumer cynicism over bigger restaurant chains
                                                      • Coffee outlets benefit from image of coffee brands
                                                      • Household Care

                                                        • Environmental emphasis boosts ethical image of household care brands
                                                          • Figure 27: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the household care sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                                      • Media

                                                        • Hacking scandal influences ethics in the category
                                                          • Figure 28: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the print media sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                                        • Magazines’ tailored content more likely to be seen as ethical
                                                        • Retail

                                                          • Lush stands out in retail
                                                            • Figure 29: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the retail sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                                          • Sign of a link between expense and ethics
                                                            • Figure 30: Agreement with “ethical”, by agreement with “A brand that offers good value” among retailers, January 2014-July 2016
                                                          • Amazon still features despite negative coverage
                                                            • Clothing retailers struggle to build ethical profile
                                                              • Link between retailer and own-label food ranges
                                                                • Figure 31: Brand perceptions of retailer own-label food brands, August 2014
                                                            • Technology Products

                                                              • High profile brands seen as most ethical in tech
                                                                • Figure 32: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the technology product sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                                            • Technology Service Providers

                                                              • Ethics less of a factor within tech service providers
                                                                • Figure 33: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the technology service sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                                            • Travel

                                                              • Premium airlines considered most ethical among travel brands
                                                                • Figure 34: Top ranking of brands by agreement with “ethical” in the travel sector, January 2014-July 2016
                                                              • The Co-operative Travel lacks ethical appeal of sister retail brand
                                                              • The Impact of Ethics – What You Need to Know

                                                                • No defined link between ethics and awareness
                                                                  • Other factors important when making a purchase
                                                                    • Priorities likely to change after purchase has been made
                                                                      • Ethics has limited link with trust
                                                                        • Consumers reluctant to align with brands without ethical image
                                                                          • Smaller brands can use ethics to drive a point of difference
                                                                          • The Link between Ethics and Awareness and Usage

                                                                            • Niche brands have more concentrated ethical image
                                                                              • Figure 35: Agreement with “ethical”, by brand awareness, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                            • Consumers claim to place stock in ethical brands
                                                                              • Figure 36: Ethical factors considered when shopping, May 2015
                                                                            • But ethics appears less of an influence within individual brands
                                                                              • Figure 37: Agreement with “ethical”, by proportion of users, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                            • Exclusivity of brands with strong ethical image limits usage
                                                                              • Brands with low perception of ethics more likely to be affected
                                                                                • Figure 38: Agreement with ethical, by proportion of users who have used in the last year, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                            • The Link between Ethics and Satisfaction

                                                                              • Priorities likely to change after purchase has been made
                                                                                • Figure 39: Agreement with “ethical”, by proportion of users who describe their experience as positive (net of “Good” or “Excellent”), January 2014-July 2016
                                                                              • Premium brands able to make up for lack of ethics
                                                                                • Figure 40: Agreement with “ethical”, by proportion of users who describe their experience as “Excellent”, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                              • Consumers less likely to recommend brands without ethical image
                                                                                • Brands with ethical image still need to prove their purpose
                                                                                  • Figure 41: Agreement with “ethical”, by proportion of users who would recommend the brand, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                              • The Link between Ethics and Trust

                                                                                • Ethics has limited link with trust
                                                                                  • General cynicism towards ethics may have an impact
                                                                                    • Figure 42: Agreement with “ethical”, by agreement with “A brand that I trust”, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                  • Perception of being unethical has stronger impact
                                                                                    • Figure 43: Agreement with “unethical”, by agreement with “A brand that I trust”, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                • The Link between Ethics and Brand Preference

                                                                                  • Consumers reluctant to align with brands without ethical image
                                                                                    • Figure 44: Agreement with “ethical”, by brand commitment (net of “I prefer this brand over others” and “This is a favourite brand”), January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                • The Link between Ethics and Perceived Differentiation

                                                                                  • Ethics provide a point of difference
                                                                                    • Figure 45: Agreement with “ethical”, by brand differentiation (Net of “It stands out as being somewhat different from other brands” and “It’s a unique brand which really stands out from other brands”), January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                • The Link between Ethics and Perceived Value

                                                                                  • Value defined on consumers’ own terms
                                                                                    • Link between ethics and value is blurred
                                                                                      • Figure 46: Agreement with “ethical”, by agreement with the statement “A brand that offers good value”, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                    • Most ethical brands tend to score lower on perceived value
                                                                                      • Figure 47: Agreement with “ethical”, by agreement with the statement “A brand that offers good value”, within food, food retailers and foodservice brands, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                  • Cross Category Review – What You Need to Know

                                                                                    • Disconnect between idealistic view and real-life view
                                                                                      • Big-name brands appear to escape negative tax-related coverage
                                                                                        • Fair trade has an influence on whole coffee category
                                                                                          • Natural and organic products have stronger ethical associations
                                                                                            • British production can assist with ethical image
                                                                                            • Pay and Working Conditions

                                                                                              • A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work
                                                                                                • Sports Direct’s pay and working conditions come under scrutiny
                                                                                                  • Figure 48: Online mentions of Sports Direct, and the proportion of mentions focusing on pay and working conditions, January 2012-July 2016
                                                                                                • Peak of focus reached in December 2015
                                                                                                  • An example of disconnect between ideal view and realistic view
                                                                                                    • The National Living Wage
                                                                                                      • The impact of pay on perceived ethics
                                                                                                        • Figure 49: Proportion of consumers agreeing that brands accredited by The Living Wage Foundation are ethical, compared with sector average scores, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                                        • Figure 50: Proportion of consumers agreeing that members of ETI are ethical, compared with sector average scores, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                                    • Tax

                                                                                                      • Tax-avoiding brands manage to avoid strong unethical associations
                                                                                                        • Figure 51: Proportion of online brand conversation focused on taxes, selected companies only, January 2007-July 2016
                                                                                                        • Figure 52: Brand perceptions of brands that have received negative coverage around tax, October 2015-June 2016
                                                                                                      • The Fair Tax Mark
                                                                                                        • Figure 53: Online mentions of different ethical initiatives, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                                    • Fair Trade

                                                                                                      • Fair trade is a clear, visible indicator of responsible production
                                                                                                        • Figure 54: Online mentions of fair trade, September 2008-July 2016
                                                                                                      • Green & Black’s and Clipper benefit from accreditation
                                                                                                        • Focus on fair trade coffee prompts other brands to behave ethically
                                                                                                          • Figure 55: Topic cloud around fair trade, September 2008-July 2016
                                                                                                          • Figure 56: Agreement with “ethical”, by proportion of users, within coffee and coffee shop brands, May 2014-July 2016
                                                                                                        • Pattern between usage and ethics less obvious in chocolate brands
                                                                                                          • Figure 57: Agreement with “ethical”, by proportion of users, within chocolate brands, February 2014-January 2016
                                                                                                        • Fair trade retailers
                                                                                                          • Figure 58: Perceived ethicality of food retailers, August 2015
                                                                                                          • Figure 59: Examples of retailer own-label launches with fair trade claims, May 2015-August 2016
                                                                                                        • Fair trade in BPC
                                                                                                          • Figure 60: Perceived ethicality of BPC brands featured on GNPD for product launches containing fair trade ingredients, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                                          • Figure 61: Examples of BPC launches with fair trade claims, September 2011-August 2016
                                                                                                      • Natural and Organic

                                                                                                        • BPC and food the two main areas where organic is a factor
                                                                                                          • Figure 62: Topic cloud around organic, September 2008-July 2016
                                                                                                        • Majority of organic food brands considered more ethical than average
                                                                                                          • Figure 63: Brand perceptions of food and drink brands listed on Mintel GNPD as launching products with organic claims since 2011, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                                          • Figure 64: Examples of food and drink launches with organic claims, October 2011-August 2016
                                                                                                        • Bottled water may face different expectations from consumers
                                                                                                          • Some organic BPC brands struggle to create above-average score for ethics
                                                                                                            • Figure 65: Brand perceptions of BPC brands listed on Mintel GNPD as launching products with organic claims since 2011, August 2014-March 2016
                                                                                                            • Figure 66: Examples of BPC launches with organic claims, January-June 2016
                                                                                                          • Expense is likely to be an issue
                                                                                                            • Retailers able to boost perception through products they stock
                                                                                                              • Figure 67: Brand perceptions of retailers listed on Mintel GNPD as launching products with organic claims since 2011, November 2015-May 2016
                                                                                                          • Brand Britain

                                                                                                            • A third consider British influence before buying
                                                                                                              • Born in Britain
                                                                                                                • Figure 68: Agreement with “ethical” among selected brands with UK production focus, compared with sector averages, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                                              • Investing in local communities
                                                                                                                • Figure 69: Agreement with “ethical” among selected brands with UK focus, compared with sector averages, January 2014-July 2016
                                                                                                              • Evidence that British or local pride boosts ethical associations
                                                                                                              • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations and Supporting Information

                                                                                                                  • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                  • Appendix – Brands Covered

                                                                                                                    Companies Covered

                                                                                                                    To learn more about the companies covered in this report please contact us.

                                                                                                                    The Ethical Brand - UK - September 2016

                                                                                                                    £2,195.00 (Excl.Tax)