Consumers dictate business ethics

business ethics

Yesterday Oxfam released its ‘naughty and nice’ list, highlighting the Australian retailers that have released their factory locations and those that haven’t. Releasing the location of their factories is an excellent step towards ensuring that all workers are well compensated and that the surrounding environment isn’t damaged by the business.

“Without knowing where our clothes are coming from, we cannot be sure even basic human rights are being respected,” said Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke.

Ethical and sustainable practices are becoming an important bottom line with consumers, who are increasingly aware of their impact on the planet, animals and each other. Earlier this year, Woolworths and Coles both found themselves facing consumer boycotts when it became apparent that they weren’t paying Australian dairy farmers enough for their products. Movements like this, galvanised by social media and the closeness of strangers, have become more apparent in the past few decades. Nestle was the target of customer vitriol when a Greenpeace ad aired, revealing the detrimental impact of chocolate manufacture on rainforests and their orang-utan inhabitants.

Another famous example of ethical consumerism is the global boycott of Nike in the 1990s. After Nike denied any responsibility for the sweatshops in which their products were made, consumers were able to bring them to account by exercising choice. Although still plagued with ethical controversy, Nike has come a long way in the past 20 years.

Cases like these illustrate the significance of an ethical bottom line in today’s marketplace. Apps like Good on You ensure that consumers know where brands stand on ethical issues surrounding labour, environment and animals. They’re not alone.

Consumers now have more choice than ever, and they’re using their buying power to ensure ethical business practice. Businesses that don’t engage with ethical practices will find themselves losing customers and capital quickly. In this day and age, ethical conduct is essential for a sustainable business plan.