Ethics and the Irish Consumer - Ireland - September 2009
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The concept of ethical consumerism is one that has been steadily gathering momentum in Ireland over the past decade, yet the degree to which ethical and green issues influence Irish consumers’ purchasing behaviour and general lifestyle differs markedly across different sectors. While it is approaching mainstream status in the food and drink sector, it is still very much niche in finance, travel and clothing.
Moreover, there is a real danger that its progress could be halted by the current economic climate and there is evidence to suggest that the challenges facing consumers have given rise to a more inward-looking mentality, with issues of self-interest (largely to do with reducing personal expenditure) overtaking environmental and ethical concerns.
Nonetheless, despite the increased level of price-consciousness among consumers, companies do appear to be remaining faithful to ethical and environmental commitments made over the past decade – perhaps identifying such a stance as an opportunity for differentiation in a market increasingly obsessed with price and value. This in itself will ensure that the availability of ethical products and services and the overall profile of the ethical sector continues to increase.
This report assesses how ethical products and services will fare in the current era of increased price-consciousness on the part of consumers both generally and, more specifically across four main sectors: food and drink, clothing, travel and finance. It also assesses the level of concern for ethical and green issues among Irish consumers, and examines the extent to which these concerns are affecting behaviour.
To what extent will the current economic challenges facing consumers divert their attention from ethical and environmental concerns?
Are retailers remaining faithful to past ethical/environmental commitments or cutting corners to offer lower prices to consumers?
The varying extent to which ethical and environmental issues are taken into account by consumers across the various sectors examined (ie food and drink, clothing, travel and finance). In which sectors can ‘ethical’ now be considered mainstream?
The respective resilience of the various ethical sub-sectors within the food and drink sector (organic produce, fair trade products, local produce and farmers’ markets) to increased price-consciousness on the part of consumers.
Whether the burgeoning ethical clothing market will suffer from the renewed interest in cheaper, disposable clothing over quality, durable clothing.
How ethical tourism options (tending to be higher-end, more expensive products) will fare in the context of dramatically reduced overseas travel and holidaying by Irish consumers.
Whether ethical finance stands to gain from the recent scandals involving financial institutions and the overall financial sector – and, more specifically, how the collapse of equity markets in 2008 might affect consumer interest in ethical equity investment.
The ethical and environmental issues that Irish consumers are concerned about, and the extent of this concern.
Whether consumers’ stated concerns over ethical and environmental issues are manifesting themselves in consumers’ purchasing behaviour and other lifestyle choices?
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