Doing more with less is one of the most appreciated values in the society where the competition is stressed to everyone based on capitalism. However, some people focus on “social economy system,” applying various values in the world instead of forcing the idea of the least cost and the greatest satisfaction. Among the ways of “social economy system,” individuals can follow the new trend of ethical consumption. It has been highly estimated because of its positive impact on society, spreading a sense of community and alleviating problems from the modern society. Furthermore, in recent times, the way of consuming ethically is currently being reviewed, while another side of ethical consumption is highlighted as individuals’ conviction which should be respected.
|Coffeco, the cafe selling menu for vegetarians, has beverages and cookies made with soybean milk. Consumers can replace milk of every beverage with soybean milk.|
|/Photograph by You Eun-sun|
The meaning of ethical consumption in the early times
Ethical consumption means the way of consuming products and services as consumers and appreciating the relationship between the process of manufacturing, cultivation, distribution, and consumption. Ordinarily, people who follow this value aim to avoid products which damage animals and the environment and use ones which are helpful to the local society and the environment.
Ethical consumption seems to be a solution to some of the problems of modern society. According to the theory of ethical consumption, consumers make frequent use of products respecting the rights of laborers, the natural environment, and other social values such as fair trade. As a result, this benefits the interests of society as a whole. Ethical consumption shows up in various forms such as selective consumption and boycotts. Sometimes business enterprises have no choice but to reflect the social values that the consumers emphasize through these actions.
This phenomenon is seen in the way marketing companies are using, which is called “cause marketing.” It means that some products provide consumers with the “cause” of consumption, justified by social values. For instance, Olive Young, a health and beauty store in Korea, is promoting its business, saying that if one consumer buys one cosmetic product, then one child will receive school supplies that are necessary for their schoolwork. Increase of the marketing method shows that a considerable number of people are interested in the trend of ethical consumption.
The belief and value of each person are considered the most
Ethical consumption has existed as a means of respecting social values. However, its another viewpoint is now newly highlighted as one person’s convictions began to be respected. Many consumers follow the way of ethical consumption not just because they worry about the society but also they want to behave according to their beliefs. Hong Mi-jung, a vegetarian, explains the reason why she is on a vegetarian diet saying, “I decided to be a vegetarian, because I definitely care about the rights of animals and the environment. However, the most important thing that helps me to keep going on is that I want to stick to my belief.”
As the other side of ethical consumption, holding one person’s convictions, is rising to the surface, a variety of companies which focus on producing products and services consumed by ethical consumers started to appear. For example, Guiltfree, a designer brand which uses environment friendly materials, offers clothes made from eco-friendly fabric such as fake fur to consumers. It does not employ materials which are from animals’ sacrifice.
The way of consumption sticking to individuals’ belief can be also easily found in the daily life such as household items and a cup of coffee. Marymond, a brand whose interests are used to help solving problems regarding “comfort women” in Korea, is famous for its products of fair quality and design. Choi Su-yeon (Sophomore, Industrial and Systems Engineering), a consumer of Marymond said, “I usually buy what I want to get from Marymond because it seeks for the good value. I believe it is meaningful in terms of helping others by individuals’ consuming.”
In addition, numerous coffee shops which sell beverages and cookies for vegetarians are opening. Coffeco, a coffee shop selling coffee made by the process respecting fair method and bread made for the vegetarian diet, is one of them. Hong Mi-jung, the CEO of Coffeco said, “At first, I started to make cookies and coffee, which vegetarians can drink, just for me. Then I decided to sell them to widen other people’s range of choices.”
Following this trend, an application to help consumers who follow such consumption methods has been launched. “Buy What You Believe” is an application which introduces shops which sell products for ethical consumers such as fair trade shops, vegetarian restaurants, local stores that contribute to the development of regional community, and so on. Shin Hye-suk, the operator of “Buy What You Believe” said, “I opened the application to find the way to do the alternative consumption and make a stand against the problems brought by the current consumption activities as an independent consumer.”
Proper understanding of the consumption is needed
Still, a considerable number of consumers who want to follow their convictions are struggling in their daily lives because there are not enough ways to consume products whose processes fit their values. Jang Ji-eun (Sophomore, Korean Literature and Creative Writing), the leader of vegetarian club in Dongguk, said, “I usually experience inconvenience since finding companies which provide goods that are fair to me is difficult. Sometimes, I skip my meals just because I cannot find what to eat.” Operator Shin of “Buy What you Believe” also commented that consumption reflected by individuals’ tasting is difficult in Korea since there are only few choices for consumers and institutional strategies to protect consumers and businesses regarding the consumption.
Besides, Operator Shin pointed out that the word, “ethical consumption” is not the proper expression to understand the real meaning of it. She explained, “The word ‘ethical consumption’ divided the consuming activities into only two parts, ethical and unethical,” and added “I believe the importance of protecting diversity in the economic ecosystem should be known, so I use the word ‘alternative consumption’ as one of the solutions to the harmful effects of capitalism and standardized system.”
To help the consumers to spend their lives in a pleasurable way, it is necessary to develop how they can find what they want to buy. In addition, the atmosphere of accepting consumers who stick to their own values should be established. CEO Hong said, “One of difficulties I have to deal with is other people’s prejudice against ethical consumption. They tend to regard consumption depending on one’s belief as the fussy and unusual thing, which makes the consumers struggle to keep their conviction,” and added, “It is just a matter of making a decision what to eat and consume on my own. It is needed to recognize vegetarian diet as the daily life.” Jang Ji-eun commented, “Ethical Consumption suggests that efficiency is not the best value in the society. We have to shed light on other values ignored by the majority under the pretext of the value of efficiency.”
You Eun-sun email@example.com
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