Types Of Ethical Consumption: A Short Guide

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31 Jul 2021
7 min read

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Ethical consumption is important for environmental conservation and we all need to educate ourselves on it as soon as possible. In this article I have written about the three types of ethical consumerism. # ThinkWithNiche.

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Ethical Consumerism no longer remains a niche discourse and with more and more research papers coming out in its favor, it wouldn't be surprising if it soon emerges as one of the most effective ways of sustainable development. Ethical Consumption is a modern solution to the age-old problem of environmental pollution carried on by big industries. The idea here is to educate the consumers about the unethical ways of production that companies adapt to save money and then propel consumers to buy products that are produced without any sort of exploitation. This idea tries to push the agenda that consumers are the true king and they control the flow in the market.

Introduced in 1989 through a famous UK-based magazine, Ethical Consumerism has become a popular concept. Researchers have published many long theses on Ethical Consumption and its various advantages, etc. These researches have also pointed out various types of Ethical Consumption which is what we'd be looking at in this article. Since this is a huge topic, we'd be only covering the broader categories and won't be going too deep in each of the sub-categories. It is also important to point out that these types have been formed based on demographics, attitudes, and psychographics and focus on the larger outlook. 

Positive Ethical Consumption or PEC

Positive Ethical Consumption or PEC is the most important type of ethical consumerism as it includes purchasing and promoting ethical products that are also delivered using ethical means of transportation. This outlook is positive since it promotes direct consumption of ethical products, hence promoting companies or brands that follow ethics. PEC also includes post-purchasing activities which are activities related to the usage of the product and promotion using word-of-mouth. It also includes the disposal of that product in an eco-friendly way. This means recycling, reusing, and repairing the product. 

PEC is such an important part of ethical consumerism as it enforces a positive outlook at ethical consumption in terms of marketing and PR and also dismantles a lot of myth and dismissive behavior around ethical consumption. Thus it encourages people to opt for ethical products and also helps small-scale brands to attract more business. 

Negative Ethical Consumption or NEC

As the title itself suggests, this is the complete opposite of PEC. Negative Ethical Consumption or NEC is popularly known as boycotting and it encourages consumers to boycott products that have been manufactured using unethical ways such as exploitation of labor, exploitation of animals, water pollution, air pollution, etc. This is a very aggressive and radical outlook at ethical consumption and thus has 'Negative' in its title. NEC mobilizes people to organize public boycotts of brands and encourage their relatives and friends to do the same. 

One of the major examples of NEC or boycotting was seen in 2006 when Naturewatch, an NGO that looks at animal rights, called for a public boycott of The Body Shop, a popular brand. The Body Shop was a brand that emerged as a leading cosmetics brand because of its strict policy against testing cosmetic products on animals. Because of this the brand soon became popular among supporters of ethical products. But The Body Shop changed gears in 2006 when its founder, Anita Roddick, sold the majority of the company's shares to L'Oreal. Since L'Oreal has no such policy against animal cruelty, it led to a huge outrage and eventually boycott of the brand's products. But soon the owners announced that their policy against animal testing will stand firm. This was a huge success for all the environmental activists and organizations that work tirelessly in the field of environmental perseverance. 

Discursive Ethical Consumption or DEC

Out of the three types, DEC is the most passive one as it has more to do with igniting conversations around ethical products rather than encouraging or propelling people to buy or boycott products. DEC aims at raising awareness through public debates, PSA, hoardings, newspaper advertisements, etc. Its main aim is to eventually change the overall outlook of the entire population around ethical consumption by educating them on the topic and addressing their concerns and false ideas regarding ethical products. Countless organizations conduct seminars in colleges, corporates, etc. to reach the common man and teach them about ethical consumerism and its effects on the environment. 

Ethical Consumerism is an effective way of achieving sustainable development. This article has thus been written to educate people about the various broad categories of Ethical Consumerism but since this is such a vast topic, it's impossible to compress everything in a single article. Therefore I'll urge you to dig deeper into this and educate yourself more on this topic because it's about time we took matters into our own hands and not let governments play the devil's advocate.

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