Consumer support for Fairtrade remains strong despite global cost of living crisis

31 May 2023   |   Fairtrade International

Bonn, Germany – Consumers all over the world are staying loyal to Fairtrade as the most visible and trusted ethical label, according to new research findings released by GlobeScan and Fairtrade today.

Close to three in five (56 percent) shoppers surveyed in 12 countries said they were willing to pay more for a Fairtrade product, despite the increased cost of living. While consumers are increasingly concerned about rising food prices, small-scale farmers also face skyrocketing fuel, transport and fertiliser costs, putting their livelihoods even further at risk.

“It is encouraging that shoppers are staying committed to sustainability values even during hard times, to support farmers and workers getting a fair income,” said Sandra Uwera, Global CEO of Fairtrade International. “The global cost of living crisis is squeezing both consumers and producers, but this survey shows that many people still put ethical considerations high on the list when they go shopping.”

Despite recent indications of an overall dip in consumers’ willingness to choose “purposeful” brands, Fairtrade appears to be bucking the trend when it comes to ethical shopping choices, with more people saying they regularly buy Fairtrade products than the last survey in 2021. Forty-four percent buy at least one Fairtrade product per month, up three percentage points from two years ago.

Continuing a trend seen since the first Fairtrade GlobeScan survey in 2008, trust in Fairtrade remains high. Just over 70 percent of those surveyed recognised the Fairtrade label, and of those, 86 percent said they trusted it – including three-quarters of Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X. “Fairtrade remains the most visible and trusted ethical label globally,” added Uwera. “The majority of consumers told us they prefer to buy Fairtrade products over other labels.”

Other headlines from the GlobeScan survey include:

  • Younger consumers (those aged 25-34) were the most likely to be willing pay more than regular price for Fairtrade products despite the increased cost of living
  • Shoppers strongly associated Fairtrade with social justice issues such as decent working conditions, protecting farmers’ and workers’ rights, and tackling poverty.
  • 75 percent – including four out of five parents – said the Fairtrade label makes it easy for them to decide if a product is ethically and responsibly produced.
  • Consumers’ emotional connection to Fairtrade remained strong, and buying Fairtrade evoked a sense of being part of a community and pride for many.
  • More than one in five shoppers – a small uptick from previous years – associate Fairtrade with support for farmers to reduce the impact of climate change, reduce the impact of farming on the environment, and protect against deforestation (22 percent each), reflecting greater awareness of Fairtrade’s actions in these areas of sustainability.

In addition, consumers overwhelmingly see added value for brands that carry the Fairtrade label. Seventy-nine percent stated they have a positive impression of a brand when the Fairtrade label is present, while 43 percent said their view of a brand would be negatively impacted if it stopped carrying the label.

“Despite the impacts of inflation on the average consumer (six in ten people across the world say they have been ‘greatly affected’ by cost of living), our research shows increasing concern about climate change and poverty,” said Caroline Holme, Senior Director at GlobeScan. “According to GlobeScan’s annual Healthy & Sustainable Living study, people want to have those big concerns reflected in the products they buy. And certifications such as Fairtrade continue to be critical to help consumers shop with their values.”

This year’s survey provided new insights into who consumers believe are most responsible for protecting human and environmental rights. Thirty-one percent of respondents said that governments were the most responsible for protecting human rights, followed by international bodies such as the UN or European Union (21 percent). When it comes to environmental protection, consumers again said national governments were the most responsible (25 percent), with large companies and individuals a close second (19 percent each).

While shoppers didn’t see certifications as primarily responsible, they strongly associated Fairtrade with having impact on these issues, especially on decent working conditions and fair pay for farmers and workers.

“Farmers and agricultural workers are facing multiple crises, including spiralling inflation, lower real wages and the effects of climate change – while consumers around the world are also facing great uncertainty,” said Uwera. “These findings send a clear message that shoppers still want fair and sustainable options, and suggest that they see no short cut to a more sustainable future.”

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