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Case study: Ethical issues move up the consumer agenda

Europeans are taking an active interest in ethical issues according to research from WPP’s brand consultancy, Added Value.

Added Value interviewed 2,000 consumers across three major European markets – the UK, France and Germany – about their ethical values and consumer choices.

Over half of the interviewees stated that they were interested in ethical issues and 21% said they are a real priority. Germans are most engaged with ethical issues with 25% rating them as a real priority, compared to 22% of French and just 15% of Britons. However, 77% of Britons are taking steps to become more responsible consumers, mainly due to concerns about the environment.

The research showed that companies need to think carefully about their impact on the environment. Respondents in all countries listed their top ethical priorities for brands as pollution and use of resources, packaging and recycling and impacts on climate change.

Other issues that were previously seen as important are beginning to drop off the radar. Ten years ago, animal testing was a key issue for British consumers, but it was mentioned by only 55% of Britons in the Added Value survey. Sixty three percent of French and 60% of Germans rated it as important.

Company support for charities was viewed as even less important, named by just 45% of Germans, 44% of Britons and 55% of French. This suggests that consumers want companies to improve their own environmental and ethical credentials rather than just donating to charity.

The message for those in the marketing industry couldn’t be clearer. Brands must incorporate the ethical agenda into their marketing strategy.