About the project

The Rise of Ethical Consumption in Australia: From the Margins to the Mainstream An Australian Research Council Discovery Project

Welcome to the official website of our research project, ‘The Rise of Ethical Consumption in Australia: from the margins to the mainstream’.

This major study is funded by the Australian Research Council for a three-year period (from mid-2013 to mid-2016), and is based at RMIT University in Melbourne.

As a nationwide research project, it will be the first of its kind to examine the rise and impact of ethical consumption in Australia. It will not only document the growth and increasing popularity of ethical and sustainable forms of consumption over the last few decades, but will explore the social, cultural and political implications of ethical consumption as a philosophy and global movement. Most of all, through engaging with consumers, retailers and producers, the project’s findings will enable the development of policy and industry frameworks aimed at the promotion of more ethical and sustainable ways of consuming.

The project is being undertaken by a team of experienced researchers. The Chief Investigators on the project are Tania Lewis and Kim Humphery. They are joined by a Research Fellow, Alison Huber, and by doctoral researchers Paula Arcari and Ferne Edwards. Although this is an Australian study, the project team has established links with other researchers undertaking similar work; particularly in the United Kingdom. This study will thus be informed by and contribute to international debate on the futures of ethical consumption.

Importantly, the project is not just about ethical and sustainable purchasing. It’s also about the production of ethical and sustainable products and the retailing of those products. We want to understand better the ethical and the sustainable as processes of making, selling and buying (and also of disposing, in terms of post-consumer waste).

We also work with a very wide definition of the ‘ethical’. In practice, ‘ethical consumption’ has become a very general term meaning different things in different contexts. Much of what is meant by ethical consumption crosses over into notions of environmentally and socially sustainable consumption – which is why we have used these terms together – but see here for a more detailed discussion.

Finally, this project – as the title suggests – concentrates not simply on alternative shops and shopping, but on how ideas about consuming ethically, and ethical products themselves, are reshaping mainstream consumption.