Are we more ethical as consumers because of COVID?

COVID has undoubtedly changed the behaviour of many for ever.

The enforced change on our liberty and social interaction has manifested in a long, hard look at life and the role that we as humans play in it.

This is quite unusual, because normally in times of adversity, environmental awareness and issues are relegated to the bottom of our consciousness.

But in this COVID world, one of the early winners are organic fruit and vegetables and even organic fruit juices whose ethical credentials have come to the fore.

Data from the Soil Association showed that sales were due increase to a ten year high of £2.6bn by the first quarter of this year.

“The coronavirus has brought our food and farming systems sharply into focus, exposing the fragility of our food production systems, and inflexible supply chains,” says Clare McDermott, the Soil Association’s business development director.

And this in itself is interesting.

Having worked with numerous organic brands, consumer behaviour research presented some interesting and repeated findings.

For most, switching to organic was triggered by a life event – pregnancy, a family member with allergies or illness – all because fresh organic products (not overly processed organic foods such as sauces etc.) were believed to deliver increased nutrition and health benefits.

And over the course of the pandemic to date, it has become evident that health awareness and increasing ones immunity has risen rapidly on the ‘most do’ scale.

A global study published by management consultancy firm Accenture at the end of last year showed that consumer behaviour had dramatically evolved.

Their research showed that 60% were rmaking more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases since the start of the pandemic and that 90% stated they would continue to do so.

Another survey by research group Kantar said that since the outbreak of COVID, sustainability and looking after the planet were of greater concern to consumers with 65% stating that they viewed prioritising a positive impact on climate change as being essential with a need to prioritise in the post pandemic recovery.

Reports have also shown that sales of vegan food soared have also soured with the UK website The Vegan Kind saying sales trebled last year.

But is this increased ethical and environmental consumerism really here to stay? Karine Trinquetel from Kantar’ sustainable transformation unit, believes so.

“During past recessions, we have seen a decline in people placing sustainability as a priority,” she says. “This time around the story looks different. People’s views on sustainability have become reinforced, even accelerated. We are at a tipping point. All around the world, people are expressing an appetite for change.”

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