I like to think of myself as reasonably ethical. At the same time I’m an ardent money saver. Often these two don’t work together, but there are times when it doesn’t take (or cost) much to buy true to your principles – and you can start with a pint of milk.
For a brief period ethics led my buying choices. I only bought free-range meat and Fairtrade bananas. I avoided cosmetics tested on animals. I refused to buy clothing from fast fashion and sweatshop linked companies such as Nike, I wouldn’t eat anything from Nestle.
Sometimes doing this and buying alternatives cost me more money. Other times I just went without, particularly in restaurants.
It didn’t last long.
The difficulties of buying ethically
The truth is I find it very difficult to be true to all my principles when spending money. Month by month, year by year I made compromises here, made exceptions there.
Yes some of it is down to convenience. I now eat meat when I’m out regardless of its rearing largely because I couldn’t cope with another goats cheese tart!
Money saving does play a part too. I’ll usually buy at the cheapest shop, often Amazon. I’m on a budget to save for our wedding and every penny really does count.
I’m also guilty in part due to consumerism – I do love Apple products and Converse shoes.
You could easily say I’m selfish or lazy. That if I really believed in something I’d find a way to shop ethically. There’s truth there for sure.
But a large chunk of it is down to the shades of grey. It’s very difficult to be consistent.
What is buying ethical anyway?
The Body Shop was bought by L’Oreal. Fairtrade partnered up with Nestle. I found out Converse was owned by Nike and Pringles were part of Proctor & Gamble.
We know Apple devices are sometimes built in horrible conditions. Amazon is just one business attacked for not necessarily contributing enough tax. My favourite cinema chain was accused of treating and paying its workers badly.
There are endless more examples. It’s complicated and confusing.
Choosing when and where to buy ethically
I don’t think it’s too much of a cop out to pick my battles. Choose where I’ll make an ethical stand. And I’m comfortable with this.
I still buy Body Shop shower gel and deodorant as I know it’s not been animal tested, despite the parent company’s products not following the same policy.
I won’t – and haven’t in nine years – buy any meat lower than Freedom Food recognised, or fish that’s not got a MSC stamp. I’ll even buy pricier sausages when I go to a BBQ knowing I’ll just eat what’s ready.
There are plenty more examples, and some I’ll be a little looser with. Though writing this has certainly focused me a little more and given me a bit of a kick to be a little bit more proactive.
Paying a fair price for milk
Dairy is a good place to start.
Now I don’t drink milk (I know, it’s odd), but if I ever do, I try to buy organic as Soil Association stamped products mean better treatment of the animals. Same goes for cheese, yoghurts etc where I can.
But recently being ethical when buying milk isn’t just about animal welfare.
In the supermarket price wars, dairy farmers are one of the biggest losers. Protests in the last few weeks have highlighted that they get paid less per pint at Asda and Morrions than it costs to produce.
It’s not on.
If you want to make sure farmers get a fair(ish) price for their milk, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencers and Co-Op already pay the supplier more than the cost.
In response to the protests Asda, Aldi and Lidl have announced they’ll pay more to their dairy suppliers (who then pay the farmers), though the Guardian says this is still short of production costs.
Morrisons meanwhile are going to trial a more expensive milk. It’s actually the same milk with a different label, but cost 5p or 6p more per pint to support the farmers.
However, the supermarket is being a bit sneaky. They’ll still offer their lower price milk as standard – so the decision to pay a fair price sits with you!
If you shop at Morrisons, I urge you to chose the “Milk for Farmers” range. It probably won’t even cost you £10 a year.
How true to your principles are you when spending?