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Expert Interview Series: Peter Leatherland About Customer Demand For "Ethical" Products

Expert Interview Series: Peter Leatherland About Customer Demand For "Ethical" Products

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Demand for ethically-produced products is the highest it's ever been, says Peter Leatherland, online sales manager at Ethical Superstore.

"Customers are now much more interested in where their products have come from and what is in them," he adds.

Peter recently checked in to tell us more about what's fueling the demand for ethical products, explain how the Ethical Superstore is helping consumers with their research, and offer his insight on how consumers can shop more conscientiously for goods. Here's what he had to say:

Ethical productsWhat is the Ethical Superstore?

Ethical Superstore was founded in 2006 with the aim of introducing customers to fair trade, organic and eco-friendly products they would not normally find in mainstream stores.

What does it mean to be an ethically-conscious consumer?

An ethically-conscious consumer is someone who thinks a bit more about the products they buy and where they come from. It's about being concerned for the welfare of the people producing your products and also being aware of the potential environmental impacts your products can have.

It can be difficult at times with so many products available from so many different manufacturers - some with dubious parent companies and long supply chains. There is a lot of concern over ingredients in products, since it is difficult to identify exactly what is in the products you are buying.

We work hard to find more ethical alternatives to mainstream products and brands to make it easier to pick products with a lower impact. We also "tag" all of our products with the ethics they follow (such as fair trade) so our customers can search by their chosen criteria.

What standards does a product need to meet in order to be sold in your store?

In order for a product or brand to be sold by, it must have established ethical credentials in at least one of the following areas:

  • Fair Trade
  • Organic
  • Eco-Friendly
  • Health and Wellness promotion
  • Education and awareness building
  • Locally-Produced
  • Charity

Many of our customers say they don't have time to look at every brand they purchase from, so we like to do the research and hard work for them and introduce them to new ethical brands from around the world.

Why do you think the demand has changed?

The rise in demand is due to awareness; more people are aware of fair trade and are aware of the environmental issues we currently face. There have been various scandals in the last few years around supply chains, where products have come from, how they are produced, who produces them, what is in them and the working conditions of the people who make them. These only serve to highlight problems that exist but people aren't aware of.

People are beginning to ask questions about the clothes they only had to spend a few dollars on. What makes them so cheap? How much are the producers paid?

Once people ask these questions, they become aware of the background of products and price is no longer the only deciding factor when they make a purchase.

How do you go about searching for vendors and products to work with on your site?

We're extremely lucky that a lot of lovely suppliers contact us directly to showcase their wonderful products. Other than that, we go to a wide variety of trade shows around the world to source products, and we also visit inspirational shops and local fairs.

We also work extremely closely with some of our trusted fair trade suppliers to develop great new products sourced from around the world, bringing a new product range out each season to launch in our catalogue. Certifications and awards such as the soil association organic, fair trade foundation and ethical fashion forum are also great resources for us to find new products; and we can be sure that the products and suppliers have met the required ethical criteria.

How can it be confusing for consumers who want to purchase ethically-produced products?

It's difficult for consumers to know just how ethical products are, which is why we categorize our products by ethic and label each of them to make it easier to see quickly what credentials a product has.

What should ethically-conscious consumers be looking for when shopping?

Certifications such as Soil Association, Certified Organic, or Certified Cruelty-Free are a massive help to customers and gives them peace of mind that the products they are buying meet certain standards. These can usually be found on the packaging of products; if the product meets these standards, the manufacturer has an incentive to show this.

What's the market for ethically-responsible beauty products?

The market for ethically-responsible beauty products is growing as more people become aware of issues around animal cruelty and other issues such as nanoparticles that you find in many facial scrubs. These are often tiny plastic particles which end up being washed down your sink and will not biodegrade, potentially ending up contributing to the huge amount of plastic floating around in our seas and even ending up in our food chain. There are many hidden issues such as these that most people simply don't know about; the large cosmetics companies are often well aware of them, but it's left to the smaller niche manufacturers to highlight these and sell a more ethical or healthy alternative.

How can consumers shop responsibly for beauty products?

There is plenty of information online about most beauty brands if you have the time to do the research. If you don't have time, there are always the labels such as Certified Cruelty-Free, which would probably be the main thing to look out for; but there are also other considerations such as if the product is organic, fair trade, SLS free, or biodegradable.

Connect with the Ethical Superstore on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.

Visit Biconi to start shopping for all-natural face products.

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