Ethical consumerism in the UK is currently worth £29.3 billion, yet 60 per cent of us feel we don't have enough information to make an ethical decision. There is an ever-growing array of eco labels, but what do they tell us? Or fail to tell us? Pat Thomas explains
This labelling scheme, introduced in October 2001 and found on all new cars, indicates how much carbon dioxide a car emits. It also gives estimated fuel costs for 12,000 miles and the vehicle excise duty for 12 months, so car buyers can see how much these will cost before they buy.
At heart, fair trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation. It creates opportunities for producers in the developing world who have been economically disadvantaged by the conventional trading system and ensures they receive a fair price for their goods, and support and education for sustainable farming practices.
All organic food must meet a common set of minimum standards, as defined by the EU. Each EU member state has a national control body; the United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS) regulates the activities of six certification bodies in the UK. The oldest and largest, the Soil Association (founded in 1946), currently undertakes 80 per cent of all certification in the UK and is arguably the organic label most trusted by consumers.
Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) is an industry funded certification scheme, with standards aimed at encouraging efficient farming systems that look after the land and the rural community. Its underlying objective is to develop farming standards that are above baseline levels, but these are not aimed at meeting organic standards.
All European manufacturers and retailers must tell you about the energy efficiency of household ‘white goods’ such as fridges, freezers, washing machines, tumble driers, dishwashers, air conditioners, ovens and lightbulbs. The European Energy Label is certified by the Energy Savings Trust (EST), in conjunction with industry and the government. On these labels, products are rated from A to G, with A being the most efficient.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) began in 1997 as a joint initiative between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Unilever, a multinational company and one of the world’s largest buyers of fish. Its aim was to help preserve our dwindling fish stocks by certifying well-managed and sustainable fisheries.