How Ethical is Ethical Shopping?
Martin Stevenson

Abstract
From December 2014, EU Regulation 1169/2011 will require products containing palm oil to be labelled explicitly mentioning the same. It is a move that has been welcomed by NGOs, who were previously calling for a boycott, but widely criticised by producers, manufacturers, and those NGOs, which favour greater engagement with the palm oil industry.

As with much of the confusion that surrounds consumers’ understanding of food labelling, shoppers can only act upon the information that they are given. In the case of palm oil, that information ranges from the unnecessarily scientific to the deliberately misleading. Smartphone apps designed by single-issue campaigns often fail to take into account the needs of multiple stakeholders. The new labelling, having identified that a product contains palm oil, requires the consumer to make an ‘ethical’ decision based on this inadequate information.

Ethical consumers want to know that their choices are part of the solution and don’t have unintended consequences. In a debate dominated by sensational images which appeal to the emotions but don’t inform, more (and more reliable) information would be of benefit both to the consumer and the palm oil industry.

Ethical consumers want to know that their choices are part of the solution and don’t have unintended consequences. In a debate dominated by sensational images which appeal to the emotions but don’t inform, more (and more reliable) information would be of benefit both to the consumer and the palm oil industry.
14 October, 2014
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