Tips on ethical living

Some easy ways to be ethically conscious



High street banks with an ethical policy:

No other high street bank has an ethical policy and so with any other bank, your money is potentially being used to support things that, presumably, you do not agree with – arms, oppressive regimes, oppressive multi-national companies.  In the late 1980’s Barclays was the only UK bank that invested in South Africa.  The boycott of that bank lead to them pulling out of the country and thus played a part (however small) in the ending of apartheid.  If you are an oppressive organisation or government and cannot get money from anywhere then it is hard to carry on doing what you do!

Building societies, by their very nature are generally “ethical” in their policies.

Investments and pensions

What are you depending on succeeding for you to be well off?  Many investment schemes invest in companies who do things that we do not agree with.  We are dependent on them doing well or we do not get a pension!  E.g. WH Smith is a very popular company to invest in but Smith’s is the largest supplier of wholesale pornography in the UK.  Do we need the porn industry to succeed for our money to grow?

  • Friends Provident have an ethical pension scheme and ethical ISAs.
  • NPI also have ethical ISAs
  • Norwich Union also have ethical ISAs
  • Talk to an independent financial advisor.

Fair Trade products

It is better to eat fair trade products than to not eat the products because eventually suppliers will have to stop getting non-fair trade products.


According to “Stop the Traffik”, 50% of all cocoa imported to the west is produced by slaves.  These are taken as children and forced to work their whole lives producing cocoa in West Africa for us to have Easter eggs!

  • All of the Co-op’s own brand chocolate is now fair trade.
  • Divine chocolate
  • Green & Black chocolate
  • A number of othe, smaller manufcaturers have good ethical policies now – for example, “Hotel Chocolat”, “Montesuma” etc.

Coffee and Tea

Loads of brands and mostly available from most supermarkets.  Fair trade coffee, frankly, used to taste disgusting but now it is really good and makes up 14% of the total market. Nowadays fair trade coffee and tea are very easily available in most places. Here are some of the brands that are widely available:

  • Cafe direct / Tea Direct
  • Percol
  • Clipper

Here are some national coffee shops that serve fair trade drinks:

  • Costa Coffee serve Café direct and tea direct.  You have to ask for it.
  • AMT serve only fair trade tea and coffee
  • Pret a manger serve fair trade drinks
  • Find out what your local, independent coffee shop sells.

Other foods

Just get fair trade stuff if you can.  It will cost a bit more because the person at the other end is getting enough to live on!  Alternatively, and perhaps best of all, buy locally grown produce!


Difficult to buy clothes ethically but look at where it is made. Some companies, such as H&M, have a social responsibility policy (see their website), but many of these policies are reliant on inspections which often do not give the true picture.  Companies such as “People Tree” offer fair trade, organic clothes.  20,000 people die every year from direct exposure to pesticides.  Cotton is the most sprayed crop of all, so organic cotton is an ethical issue.  Alternatively, buy clothes from charity shops.  This will benefit the charity, save you money and cut down on waste.


“UNICEF recently restated that 1.5million children die…every year because they are not breast-fed.  Public concern at Nestle’s leading role in promoting artificial infant feeding led to the launch of the international… boycott in 1977.  A marketing code of practice was introduced as a result.  With pressure from the boycott, Nestle has curbed some of it more blatant malpractice…”

Nestle brands include: Nescafe, Shredded Wheat, Kit Kat, Nesquik, Perrier, L’Oreal, Quality Street, Ski Yoghurts, Go-Cat & Buitoni. (Ethical Consumer magazine)

Other resources

The Good Shopping Guide

“The Good Shopping Guide”, published by the Ethical Marketing Group (EMG).  This is revised annually and contains tables showing the relative ethical merits of companies for given products.  These products vary from bank accounts to fridges; TVs to chocolate.  This book is a must.

Ethical consumer Magazine

Ethical consumer Magazine, published by the Ethical Consumer Research Association (ECRA).  This magazine comes out six times a year and contains similar tables to the above book.  It looks at around four types of products in each issue and so goes into far more detail that the book does. There is a subscription fee.

Corporate critic website

This is published by ECRA and gives you up to date information which you can customise to suit. For example, if animal rights are not important to you, you can remove that as a criteria and it will give you a score based on the criteria that you do value. There is a subscription fee although you can have limited access without it.


Here is an essay on the subject of ethical consumerism that you may be interested to read (or not):

A Biblical Critique of Approaches to Ethical Consumerism