Welcome to the official website of the research project, ‘The rise of ethical consumption in Australia: from the margins to the mainstream’.

This project is funded for three years (2013-15) under the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Project scheme, and is based at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

This nationwide project will be the first of its kind in Australia, and comes at a time when our nation and the world are facing considerable challenges—economic, environmental and social—as a result of excessive consumption. We have noticed an increasing focus on the ethical dimensions of consumption, and a sense that issues around the environment, sustainability, working conditions, animal welfare, fair trade, and other matters of ethical concern are becoming more prominent when people make, sell, buy, use and throw away consumer items.

We want to find out more about what people are thinking about and what people are doing in this sphere, and we are interested in many different perspectives. So in this study, we will be conducting research with consumers, retailers and producers, as well as key industry and consumer bodies, NGOs, and other stakeholders involved in the ethical marketplace to gather a comprehensive understanding of what we are calling a mainstreaming of ‘ethical consumption’.


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The myth of the ethical shopper

For a generation now, buying better has been one of our most potent forms of protest. Who doesn’t want to believe that he can rescue Manisha from misery simply by purchasing the right T-shirt?

Source: Huffington Post

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Do our ethical convictions need to go on holiday when we do?

The latest mutation of Western capitalism is a kind of experiential capitalism. Fuelled by our need to ‘capture’ our lives on social media, experiential capitalism is all about indulging in memorable – which is to say, sharable – experiences that frequently boast an ethical dimension.

Whatever one makes of these trends, they do end up sending us back to first principles: What are holidays for? What ethical considerations ought to constrain trips to remote and overseas communities?

Source: ABC Australia

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Child labour and palm oil lend chocolate Easter eggs a bitter taste

In the colourful confectionery aisle of a supermarket, science teacher Jessie Tulett is on the hunt for Easter eggs. They’re not hard to find. The challenge is to find some free of child labour and palm oil.

Tulett is among a growing number of ethical consumers looking beyond the shiny packaging and seeking to buy chocolate made without the use of child, forced or trafficked labour, and palm oil, an ingredient linked with deforestation, animal cruelty and climate change.

Source: The Islander Online

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Beef sustainability nutted out

Consensus appears widespread that the four key areas of environmental stewardship, economic resilience, people and the community and animal welfare are where Australia’s beef industry needs to focus to ensure sustainability credentials going forward.

Source: Queensland Country Life

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Levi’s Is Radically Redefining Sustainability

For Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation at Levi Strauss & Co, it’s not enough to simply plant a few trees to offset carbon dioxide or use less toxic dyes. To make a real impact in the world, you need to help change the way people think about clothes.

Levi’s has always been a leader in sustainability. In 1991, it established “terms of engagement” that laid out the brand’s global code of conduct throughout its supply chain.

Source: Fast Company

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The woman whose mum inspired her to track ethical food

Jessie Baker thanks her mother for the inspiration to start her company, Provenance.
Set up just a few years ago, Provenance says it is lighting a fire under the retail world.
The company is based around an app which allows retailers and customers to see where a product comes from, from its origins to its point of sale.

Source: BBC

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The Body Shop Got Ethical Consumption Wrong

An activist business can be wildly successful for a while, but it gets hard to stand out when everybody else adopts the same values and mantras. That may help explain French cosmetics giant L’Oreal’s reported interest in selling The Body Shop after 10 years of owning the revolutionary store chain and product line.

Source: Bloomberg

Supermarket wars, celebrity chefs, and ethical consumption

The past few years have seen growing media coverage and public awareness in Australia around questions of food provenance and animal welfare while supermarkets have come under considerable public and political pressure over their treatment of Australian farmers and perceived uncompetitive pricing practices.

The mainstreaming of ethical concerns cannot be understood simply as a consumer movement or indeed purely as an extension of market logics; rather it is articulated to and implicated in broader changes in relation to the political and social role and status of corporate players, non-state actors and questions of lifestyle politics in shaping the future of food systems, policy and regulation.

This article examines the role of celebrity chefs and other non-state actors in this heated and highly politicised environment. Celebrity chefs have been described as the new rock stars of the contemporary age. More than just stars, however, they have in many ways become cultural icons of our time as they neatly exemplify and embody a variety of contemporary shifts and tensions around work, lifestyle and leisure; branded, performative modes of selfhood and lifestyle.

Download the complete article by Tania Lewis and Alison Huber.