The survey also addressed which causes consumers cared about the most. The top cause: access to clean water. In general, environmental problems caused more concern than humanitarian ones (which seems a little uncaring, until we remember that much of the reason that want to preserve the environment is so that we humans can keep living in it).
Another important topic is how consumers determine what is a socially and environmentally good purchase. To that end, the survey identified that packaging is the most important factor to consumers in identifying ethical products. (Stop with all of the shrink wrap and extra plastic!)
In regards to packaging, information is important. North American consumers are starting to learn more about fair trade chocolate, coffee, and tea, but not much about coconut production. Did you know, for example that it is almost impossible to find coconut oil, water, or milk in stores that is certified as ethically responsible?
The second most important factor is the influence of friends and family. So children, keep pressuring your parents and friends to change their habits – and parents, set a good example for your kids.
But here’s perhaps the biggest question of them all: even if people are willing to pay more for ethical products, should they have to? Take Starbucks for example, who started a new program to pay for two years of online college tuition at Arizona State University for their employees. The company claims that this change will not increase the prices of its drinks, although there are increases in prices due to market pressure. So, according to Starbucks, the company is doing good for its’ employees without having to raise prices. Should other companies follow this model? There are many companies today that are choosing more sustainable and socially responsible practices, although that sometimes raises prices. But does it always have to?
Starbucks CEO Harold Swartz told CNNMoney's Poppy Harlow, "This is an investment in our people, the most valuable asset that Starbucks has. It's not the coffee, it's not the real estate, it's human capital and the person that wears the green apron."
With a combination of consumer eagerness to buy “good,” availability of all kinds of ethical products, and companies choosing to make the right choices for the planet and the people in it, we can move forward to a more sustainable and ethical economy.