Price trumps ethics for UK shoppers

Reports | Retail | Surveys
Ethical shopping a concern for British shoppers

Two thirds of British consumers consider themselves to be ethical shoppers – but price is still the most important factor when purchasing a product for 78% of shoppers, a new report from EY reveals.

68% of UK consumers class ethical behaviour as important when shopping, citing good treatment of employees (79%), ethical supply chains (76%) and treatment of workers and animals (49.8%) as ‘critical’ to their decision-making.

In practice, however, ethically sourced produce only comes in the top three purchase considerations for 7% of UK consumers.

With Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation at 3.1% and shoppers facing an extended squeeze on their purchasing power, only 53% of UK consumers would be happy to pay more for products which are ethically sourced.

Cost is the largest barrier to buying sustainable or ethically sourced produce, with 52% not spending sustainably due to the costs associated with these items, and a further 25% saying they cannot afford these products.

Access is also an issue, with 22% stating ethical products are not available locally.

When it comes to sustainable shopping, eggs (56%), meat (48%) and coffee (43%) are the items most frequently purchased from an ethical source, likely due to the availability of free range and Fairtrade items in these categories.

Whilst 34% consumers would not be willing to pay extra for ethically sourced groceries, on average, shoppers are willing to pay up to 10% more for household goods such as eggs (38%), milk (39%) and bananas (37%).

The sourcing of produce also has a domestic factor for UK consumers.

78% of UK shoppers actively seek out homegrown or British-made produce over imported items, and 38% would be willing to pay up to 10% more for products sourced or manufactured domestically.

Helen Merriott, Partner and Retail & Consumer Products Leader, UK & Ireland at EY, said: “The great British consumer sees themselves as an ethical shopper – and while it’s clear that the will is there to shop ethically, the way is blocked by the higher relative prices of ethical goods.

“Price and availability are the key barriers to shopping more sustainably – retailers and manufacturers need to think about how they can get more ethical options onto shelves at a price point that’s much closer to ‘normal’ goods.”

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