Half of Consumers Use Their Buying Power to Make a Positive Difference, Survey Reveals

Half of Consumers Use Their Buying Power to Make a Positive Difference, Survey Reveals

New research across a number of markets worldwide reveals that more people are looking to shop responsibly and buy sustainably-produced products.

The 2021 Fairtrade-GlobeScan consumer research sampled 15,418 respondents in 15 countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.

It reveals that over half of survey respondents (57%) prioritise ethical business practices, pledging to patronise shops and cafes that have a strong Fairtrade commitment. This data mirrors Fairtrade sales growth in many countries last year, showing that consumer intentions are translating into purchasing action even in the midst of a global pandemic.

A GlobeScan general public survey of 27,000 people in June 2020 reveals that interest in learning more about a company’s impact has risen by 15 percentage points since 2016. Millennial and Gen Z consumers, especially those aged between 18 and 24, are keen to learn more about the social and environmental practices of businesses, and less than half agree companies communicate honestly, indicating a need for supply chain transparency. Other key priorities for respondents: no child labour, reduced use of pesticides, tackling poverty, and protecting against deforestation.

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“People are paying more attention than ever before to the conditions behind the products they buy as a way to make a difference in the world,” said Jon Walker, Fairtrade’s Senior Global Cocoa Advisor.

“The pandemic has sparked an increased global consciousness, changing the way we eat, and shop.”

How fair is chocolate?

According to Statista, the U.S chocolate market grew by 1.8% in 2020 to reach a value of $18.92bn, pushing the growth of Fairtrade cocoa sales volumes over the year, resulting in almost $3 million in Fairtrade Premium payments to cocoa farmers. The same trend was observed in the UK, where, according to Kantar (April 2021), Fairtrade food and drink product sales increased by 13.6% to reach over £1bn. Fairtrade cocoa sales volumes grew by 3% over the year, generating an £6 million in Fairtrade Premium payments for cocoa farmers. Despite these increased payments, many factors will impact the industry in the coming years.

Earlier this year, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo announced that Ghana would no longer sell or export its cocoa and would instead process up to 50% of all its cocoa into chocolate itself to capture a share of the $100 billion dollar cocoa-chocolate market. Ghana accounts for 45% of all cocoa produced globally

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This announcement follows Ghana and the Ivory Coast’s decision to suspend cocoa sales to Western countries last year; a strategy designed by the world’s largest cocoa producers to secure an increase in payment premiums to improve the lives of its cocoa farmers, who are among the poorest in the world. Of the $100 billion industry raises, cocoa growers receive just $6 billion.


Then there are the human rights issues. A report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor in October estimated that about 1.56 million children are picking cocoa beans in West Africa. As a result, the world’s biggest chocolate manufacturers Mars, Hershey and Nestle have been accused of being complicit in the industry’s use of child labour (though a recent ruling by the US Supreme Court has ruled in favour of ‘big chocolate’ citing that no link was proven between business decisions and use of child labour).

As individuals become increasingly aware of the social and environmental impacts of their purchases and use social media to make businesses and governments more accountable, as seen with global movements such as Plastic Free July and Fashion Revolution, the chocolate industry faces a reckoning. Louisa Cox, Fairtrade’s Director of Impact said that trends in conscious consumerism will likely shape the chocolate market as well. “Legislation that requires companies to ensure human rights are respected in supply chains is gathering force, including in the European Union,” she said.

“Supporting the creation of robust legislation – recognising living income as a human right – is another avenue for citizens to make their voice heard. At the same time, shoppers voting with their wallets is a very strong signal that can deliver real change for farmers. Fairtrade is calling for legislation designed to put farmer and worker interests first, and which pushes business to invest in improvements, rather than simply avoiding problems.”

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Cover image by Allef Vinicius.

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