Ethical consumerism is the practice of consumers deliberately purchasing goods or products produced “responsibly” so they eliminate or reduce environmental and/or social harm. Each time someone purchases a product, he or she is not only supporting the proliferation of that product, but all that goes into the creation of that product. Each product is considered a vote – for inhumane working conditions or fair trade, for further environmental degradation or conservation. Ethical consumerism appears to be on the rise; one can find evidence at any grocery store. A wider availability of organic produce, fair-trade coffee, and free range eggs are some obvious examples. Many products tout their eco-friendly characteristics – how they were made, ingredients, packaging, and so on. Providing information to the consumer is a great opportunity for businesses to market their product. Of course, many companies disingenously market their products to look like something they're not, as with “greenwashing.” This can make it difficult for preferences to be shown for genuine products. Seeking certification is one way for genuine progressive companies to stand above the rest. Fairtrade, the Organic Trade Association, the Forest Stewardship Council, and Cradle to Cradle certification are just a small sampling of different certification programs various companies can apply to that may boost their marketability and image. The standards and benefits of various programs are debatable, but in the days of information overload, they seem a step in the right direction.
For more information on ethical consumerism, see Ethical Consumer, a U.K. - based magazine that provides free buyers' guides and information.