Walk the walk and talk the talk

Antony Begley

How ‘ethical’ would you rate your business on, say, a scale of one to 10? OK, you would be forgiven if you’ve never really thought about it before. You’ll have an idea instantly about where you sit on the ethical spectrum – no doubt towards the ‘good’ end – but being ethical is maybe not something that crops up on a daily basis.

But here’s the thing: for around half of shoppers in a study by KAM Media, a brand or retailer’s impact on health, the environment and their ethical stance are viewed as major factors in influencing their buying decisions. Yes, they want value and quality and quick service and all the usual stuff, but once those needs have been met (as they will be in most convenience stores), they then move up to the next level of concerns and are looking to buy from retailers who share their values in a much wider sense. Younger customers are particularly ‘woke’ when it comes to issues like this.

Coronavirus will undoubtedly help accelerate this trend to more ethical, ‘mindful’ shopping and there’s plenty of evidence that this is already happening. But what does ‘ethical’ mean in this context? It probably means a hundred different things but it comes down in the end to a greater interest in people and the planet than in pound notes.

The pandemic has exposed the weak underbelly of the globalisation model that has prevailed for the last few decades. The ‘greed is good’ ethos is no longer as palatable as it once was and many customers now want to feel that they’re doing something valuable and good when they spend their hard-earned money. That might be a simple as using a local convenience store instead of an international supermarket chain or buying a few beers produced at a local brewery rather than something that’s been flown half way around the world.

It’s an important issue because local retailers are already at a distinct advantage over their larger competitors, most of whom are owned by faceless investors across the globe, ruthlessly pursuing growth and dividends. It’s in our sector’s interests to push this ethical agenda – and it’s relatively easy to do, as you will discover in this issue’s cover story. Start the journey today and keep communicating with your shoppers to bring them along with you for the ride. Small steps in the right direction are all you need to make.

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Antony Begley, Publishing Director