UK teenagers are not the apathetic, self-interested generation they’re often portrayed as – they care about global issues, want businesses to act more ethically, and are willing to take action to bring about change, according to a survey commissioned by the Fairtrade Foundation.
Dubbed ‘Generation Fairtrade’ – because they have grown up with the FAIRTRADE Mark – more than eight in 10 of the UK teens surveyed (82%) said they think companies need to act more responsibly, but fewer than half (45%) said they trust companies to behave ethically.
Just one in 10 believe governments and companies will improve conditions in the future, to the extent that the Fairtrade movement will no longer be needed. Calling on Fairtrade to “bring more brands under [its] influence”, a 17-year-old from East Midlands added: “I don’t think that the Government will do a very good job at improving things in general.”
Ethical certification schemes have a key role to play in bridging their ‘trust gap’, as they provide an independent assurance that products have been sourced in an ethical or sustainable way. Almost all of the teens surveyed (97%) said that they see the FAIRTRADE Mark sometimes or often, making it the most widely-recognised ethical label among UK teens – as other research has found with UK adults.
Far from being self-absorbed, ‘Generation Fairtrade’ care about a wide range of global issues, with more than half saying they are fairly or extremely worried about issues that Fairtrade works to address such as inequality, poverty, workers’ rights, human rights, child labour and climate change. The vast majority (9 in 10) say they are willing to take action on issues they care about, with buying an ethical product being their most popular course of action.
More than three quarters of UK teens (78%) say they would do something online to support a good cause, such as signing an online petition, liking a page on Facebook, or sharing links with friends. But they will also actively participate to bring about change, with 40% saying they would take part in an event, 40% saying they would join a group or society, and 44% saying they would volunteer for a good cause.
The survey found that the market for ethical products could increase as teens begin to earn and spend their own money, as nearly two-thirds (62%) said they would like to see more Fairtrade at home, and around three-quarters said they wanted to buy more ethical and sustainable products – presenting an opportunity for brands who can bring ethical products to the market at a price point this generation can afford.
Young people also believe that Fairtrade will continue to play an important role in the future. More than half of those surveyed (55%) think more people will demand Fairtrade in the future and that there will be more Fairtrade products. A 20-year-old from north-east England said: “I hope that Fairtrade, and other like organisations, flourish and continue to improve conditions and equality for all.”
Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “From fast fashion to constant upgrades to their smartphones, you might be forgiven for thinking that today’s teens only care about a product’s price tag and whether it looks cool enough to be Instagrammed. But ‘Generation Fairtrade’ also care deeply about some of the biggest global issues that we face. They have grown up with Fairtrade products at home, and may even have attended one of the UK’s 1,000 Fairtrade schools – so they are aware that by taking a simple action such as buying Fairtrade or signing an online petition, they can persuade businesses and governments to act more ethically – and the good news for all of us is that they want to use their power to change the world for the better.”
Caroline Holme, director at GlobeScan, who carried out the research, said “Young people are just as switched onto global issues as older generations and we see a similar gap in perceptions between trust and expectations of companies. The number of thoughtful answers to unprompted questions far exceeded what we typically see in online surveys. Young people are highly engaged and they want to have a say on the role of companies and organisations like Fairtrade as they step into adulthood.”
Twenty-year-old campaigner and member of Oxfam Cymru youth board, Gabriel Marques-Worssam will debate the findings of Fairtrade’s research on young consumers with business leaders and representatives from government and civil society, at next week’s ‘Fair Future’ conference in London. The event on 15 October will bring together Fairtrade producers, businesses, NGOs, campaigners, academics and politicians to explore how the Fairtrade movement can build on the achievements of the last 20 years to create a fairer future and deliver lasting change for farmers, workers, their families and communities.
Fairtrade benefits 1.4m farmers and workers in more than 70 developing countries, by ensuring they receive a fair, stable price for their produce, better working conditions, and a Fairtrade Premium that can be invested in their business or in projects that will benefit their community, such as classrooms, clinics, clean drinking water or climate adaptation programmes.
In 2013 alone, UK shoppers bought an estimated £1.7bn of Fairtrade products, which resulted in over £26m of Fairtrade Premiums being paid to producers.