Minced meat for less than four euros per kilogram.

A t-shirt for 2.99 euros.

Packaging waste is increasing in Germany every year.

Again and again there are reports and pictures of child labor on coffee plantations and in cobalt mines.

And yet, companies and consumers alike have liked to adorn themselves with one term for years: ethical consumption.

It is only gradually becoming more than just an empty phrase - especially in the year of the corona pandemic.

At least that is what the Otto Group's latest trend study, “Living Consciously”, which is available to WELT AM SONNTAG, seems to confirm.

"Ethical consumption has finally become an attitude and has arrived in the middle of society," says trend researcher Peter Wippermann, commenting on the results of the study.

After all, 70 percent of the 1149 German citizens between the ages of 14 and 70 surveyed consider ethical criteria to be an integral part of purchasing decisions.

For comparison: In the last survey in 2013, this value was six percentage points lower.


Consumers attach particular importance to environmentally friendly production, humane working conditions, products from fair trade and the topics of recycling and circular economy with a longer product life.

Radical demands

At first glance, a generation conflict is hardly noticeable.

In any case, openness and approval are largely high across all age groups, as the study that Otto has carried out for the fifth time shows.

However, there are differences.

The baby boomers, for example, the post-war generations from the years 1955 to the end of the sixties, make the most radical demands, for example, for more responsibility for industrialized countries in the face of climate change, for more regional production or a different approach to returns.


Statements and questions that amount to a concrete personal commitment, on the other hand, in this generation sometimes have significantly lower approval rates than among younger consumers.

And price awareness is also significantly higher.

On the other hand, those born in the 1980s and later are more willing to assume the real costs for products that arise for the environment.

Wippermann therefore speaks of a change in values.

Because in the past few decades, ethical consumption in the public perception was often just the quirky shopping preference of eco-crazy people.

But now it is being perceived as a promise for a better world.

“And people are increasingly willing to change their lifestyle for this,” says the trend researcher who accompanied the study.

Of course there is also a lot of opportunism and idealism in answering the questions.

In any case, he does not rule out pleasant answers.

After all, speaking of ethical consumption is easier than living by it.

More conscious since Corona


Nevertheless, Wippermann sees fundamental changes - especially since the beginning of the corona pandemic.

After all, 20 percent of those surveyed state that they have been shopping more consciously and according to ethical criteria since then.

Their total number “is steadily increasing.

This also increases the number of those who not only talk about it, but actually act ”.

Wippermann evaluates the behavior of Aldi and Lidl as evidence of the change.

The discounters are increasingly focusing on topics such as sustainability, organic or vegan.

“And if the discount starts with that, that's a sign that it is a mainstream desire.

Because practically everyone goes shopping there, the discount is the symbol for the mass market. "

But Otto also reports that when orders are placed, products with the appropriate labels, for example for fair working conditions and the use of sustainable raw materials, are now far more often preferred to the usual standard goods.

“The consumer makes more conscious decisions,” says CEO Alexander Birken.

Source: WORLD infographic

The results are confirmed by a study by the consulting firm Accenture, which also identifies major changes in consumer behavior - with a clear emphasis on the environment, health and ethics.

"The crisis is causing consumers to take the effects of their purchasing decisions more seriously," says Oliver Wright, who is responsible for consumer goods at Accenture.

And the extent as well as the speed of the change indicated that it was a long-term shift.

Suppliers have a duty

This also increases the pressure on retailers and manufacturers.

“It actually has noticeable consequences when companies are demonstrably damaging the environment and nature,” says Wippermann, citing boycotts as examples, which 68 percent of those surveyed can now imagine at companies with unfair behavior, but also problems with the search for employees.


The Otto Group has already reported a changed situation on the labor market.

"The young people make demands and say very precisely what they expect from the company in terms of sustainability," says CEO Birken.

And that doesn't stop even after hiring.

With Otto, however, this friction is wanted.

Because the family business is well positioned.

“We have reduced CO2 emissions by 50 percent since 2006 and want to be climate neutral by 2030,” reports Birken.

In addition, his company imposes strict requirements on suppliers on social standards and environmental impact.

"Anyone who doesn't meet these requirements is thrown out of the range," he says.

That has already happened.

Pressure on companies

He doesn't want to name names, however.

Instead, he points to new initiatives.

The subsidiary About You, for example, has entered the second-hand trade, and at Bonprix there is fashion whose fabrics and yarns are dyed with a new high-pressure process instead of using a lot of water and chemicals.

"Business has to take on more responsibility," says Birken, according to which the Otto brand alone gained around two million additional customers during the Corona crisis.

"We are much more in the fire than many believe or want to admit."

“There is real hope” - Dalai Lama praises Greta Thunberg for her commitment

The activist Greta Thunberg is committed to making climate change a top priority.

For this she receives encouragement from the head of the Tibetans.

The 18-year-old give him hope.

Source: WORLD / Laura Fritsch

The entrepreneur says that the time of greenwashing is coming to an end.

“In the age of digitization and social media, this is being brutally exposed by consumers,” Birken is convinced.

“Many companies will therefore still face high costs.

Because real sustainability is expensive, especially if you start late. ”In his view, political guidelines are not necessary.

"Consumers and the market regulate it."

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG.

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