Two-thirds of consumers look for ethical features in online purchases

Some 64% of UK and Irish consumers are now “actively looking” for ethical or sustainable features when making a purchase, according to new research by PFS and LiveArea. 

A further 76% of consumers felt that online retailers and brands have an “obligation” to protect, conserve and benefit” the environment, reflecting an “urgent” need for retailers and brands to adopt ethical behaviours. 

The latest ‘Retail Repercussions: Communicating Ethical Initiatives to the Conscious Consumer’ report sought to understand the role of ethical initiatives on shopping behaviour online, and the impact that the belief-driven buyer has on online retailers’ and brands’ ability to trade responsibly and profitably.

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It found that four in 10 consumers would be willing to pay more to support online retailers’ and brands’ corporate social responsibility initiatives. 

However, while 52% of Generation Z would pay more to support carbon neutral delivery and other ethical initiatives, only 33% of the “silent generation” would do the same. 

In addition, when choosing between price and ethics, 54% of consumers still purchased products based on cost.

Despite consumers “clearly being conscious” about the products they buy, 44% of respondents have not been made aware of corporate social responsibility initiatives by their preferred retailers. The same percentage reported they wanted to be aware of such initiatives, however.

A further 28% said they “actively seek” online retailers’ corporate social responsibility, sustainability and returns policy webpages, while 71% of millennials look for ethical or sustainable features in the products they buy.

Christophe Pecoraro, managing director of PFS Europe, said: “The Covid-­19 pandemic has become a catalyst in the continued eCommerce trend, which has resulted in more shoppers migrating online than ever before. 

“Many are actively seeking out online retailers and brands who promote their ethical initiatives and credentials, taking this into account in their purchasing decisions.” 

He added: “This heightened awareness has put the spotlight upon online retailers and brands who are making inroads when it comes to ethical trading and their obligations to protect, conserve and benefit the environment. 

“However, the pandemic and increased consumer consciousness has also highlighted those companies whose supply chain ethics and treatment of staff could be called into question.”

Benoit Soucaret, creative director at LiveArea EMEA, said: “The relationship between commerce and ethics has become intrinsically linked over the past few years. Responsible trading, treatment of employees and suppliers, and brand authenticity all play a big part in shaping buying behaviour. 

“Consumers today expect online retailers and brands to not only have clear and transparent corporate social responsibility strategies, but to communicate and implement them effectively before they decide where to spend their money.”

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