Growing taste for ethical purchases

16:00, Mar 13 2014
Ethical Consumer
POVERTY FIGHTER: Sam Drumm is a fan of cafes that uses fair trade products.

More and more New Zealanders are choosing products that benefit others in a bid to tackle global poverty. Deputy editor Jenny Ling looks at the rise of the conscious consumer. 

Sam Drumm is among a growing number of consumers who want to help alleviate world poverty, one purchase at a time.

The 27-year-old trade justice advocate has been a volunteer for Fair Trade Auckland City Trust for three years.

Ethical Consumer
PURCHASING POWER: Frederique Gulcher-Ingram says everyone can make a difference by ensuring at least some of their purchases are ethically sound.

He was part of a team that convinced Auckland Council to switch to fair trade tea, coffee and hot chocolate for its staff two years ago.

He is also a campaign manager for the Global Poverty Project and is working on its annual Live Below the Line campaign, which sees around 2000 Kiwis sign up to live on $2.25 a day for five days - the New Zealand equivalent of the World Bank extreme poverty line of $1.25 a day.

Since its launch in 2010 more than US$10 million has been raised for more than 90 charities worldwide.


Mr Drumm became interested in the fair trade social movement at school and through his travels.

"I lived in a coffee growing country [East Timor] for a year and got a better understanding of how coffee works - how hard farmers work and how little they get in return.

"That's a fairly constant story across a lot of commodities.

"Fair trade provides a good solution.

"It's a fairly simple, powerful decision consumers can make every day that has a tangible positive affect for farmers around the world."

And it seems the trend is growing.

New Zealanders spent $45 million on fair trade certified products like coffee, chocolate, cotton, bananas and sugar in 2012 which increased to $52 million in 2013.

"It seems like more and more people are wanting to find more ethical ways of buying everyday products," Mr Drumm says.

"Fair trade certified and Trade Aid products provide that.

"Occasionally it can cost more but where it does I'm confident to say it's a worthwhile decision to make to spend $1 more on bananas or a few cents more on a packet of tea.

"It's absolutely justified.

"When people look at the story behind the products they can understand why that extra dollar makes such an impact."

Fairtrade is a certification scheme that sets out to tackle poverty and empower producers in developing countries. Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand general manager Steve Knapp says retail sales were "a couple of thousand dollars" when it started in New Zealand in 2005.

"Now it's $52 million," he says.

"That's tremendous support from New Zealand consumers.

"People are genuinely more interested in where products have come from and where they've been produced."

Mr Knapp says though people will always want to bag a bargain, they are starting to weigh up the true cost.

"It's got to a point where people are asking ‘If I'm buying it for this price, how much is the person making it getting'?

"It's not just about the price, it's about the quality and whether it's being produced in a sustainable way.

"In the end nobody wants to feel like they've got a bargain at the expense of kids working in sweatshops."

Conscious Consumers is a business accreditation programme which gives the public information about cafes, restaurants, delicatessens, and suppliers that use sustainable products and practices.

It was established by Ben Gleisner in Wellington in 2010 and expanded to Auckland the following year.

There are 12 "badges" businesses can collect by following ethical practices that include free range, fair trade, organic, composting, eco-cleaners, eco-packaging, sustainable fish and recycling.

The programme also records collective efforts and results such as helping 700 animals avoid factory-style farming and diverting 227,600 kilos of recyclables from landfill each year.

"There's a high number and high response from people wanting to know where their food comes from," spokeswoman Adriana Avendano Christie says.

"It's about making sure what you're buying is empowering someone else," she says.



When it comes to ethical shopping Frederique Gulcher-Ingram practises what she preaches.

Her interest in conscious consumerism was sparked when she was introduced to sweatshop-free sneakers by a friend while living on Waiheke Island.

She went on to study social geography at Massey University and wrote an essay on the rise of ethical consumerism.

Last year she set up My Good Emporium, a Facebook page with views and products relating to sustainable fashion choices.

Mrs Gulcher-Ingram highlights the Bangladesh clothing factory that collapsed last April killing more than 1100 people as an example of disastrous business practices.

"Some multinationals are so powerful - they can push countries to create free trade zones like Mexico and China where the usual tariffs and regulations are completely done away with.

"They're called sweatshops.

"I want to feel and know that what I wear has not played a part in creating sweatshops.

"I personally believe I should get fairly paid for my job and I believe that is the right of every person."

Mrs Gulcher-Ingram says shoppers can bring about change by boycotting products and brands that use unethical practices and questioning companies about their policies.

"I say to people you can't make a change overnight but become more aware and slowly but surely if more people get involved things will change.

"We have incredible power, and even just small steps make a difference."

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