Swipe right for ethical change

The Spark

26th May 2017

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New research suggests that consumers actively avoid companies that have a negative social or environmental impact. Putting their money where their morals are, shoppers pushed the sales of ethical goods in the UK up to £38bn in 2016, a year on year growth of 8.5%, suggesting that socially responsible companies have a bright future. Now a new app wants to make it easy for conscientious consumers to select virtuous brands over unethical ones.

Nudge for Change will alert you if you’re about to spend money in a way that doesn’t align with your moral compass, and nudge you towards more principled options. Consumers install the app and, in a Tinder-like fashion, swipe left or right to choose the issues that matter most. Categories include the environment, LGBTQ equality, equal pay, racial equality and workers’ rights.

The app uses a ranking system to score all businesses in their database on a scale of zero to 10 in each value category. Sources include the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Forbes, and Glassdoor to determine each company’s score on workers’ rights; the EPA, Energy Star, and Corporate Social Responsibility Hub for assessing environmental sustainability scores; and the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and Equality Forum to assess LGBT equality scores.

The concept behind Nudge for Change is to get retailers to change their moral standards. But is this naive? How would discount stores Aldi and Lidl fare on the app? Do morals matter when it comes down to bagging a bargain? According to one study, two in five consumers shun brands with the “wrong” values. In another global survey, 53 per cent of consumers said that they actively avoid consuming from companies that have a negative environmental or social impact. The same poll found that 73 per cent of consumers said brands have a responsibility to do more than simply generate profit.

On a larger scale, with the world in flux (politically, technologically, economically, socially), do values equal value? In Australia, corruption increased with economic uncertainty. That’s not the whole story, however. Elsewhere more CEOs are being forced out for ethics breaches that a less forgiving public will no longer tolerate. Perhaps the mixed picture is due to generational differences.

The majority (86 per cent) of consumer cohorts like Millennials and Generation Z encourage other people “to buy from socially and environmentally responsible companies”. As these younger generations grow up to become the most lucrative group of consumers, brands will simply have to respond to their ethical demands. For Millennials, Tinder changed their dating behaviour forever – perhaps Nudge for Change will do the same for their approach to ethical shopping.


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