Ethical Christmas Shopping

As the Christmas shopping season gets into full swing, Ethical Consumer has revealed its pick of the most ethical online stores and the top five most ethical high street shops.

For shoppers who prefer to make their purchases in person, or want the option to see products in store before buying online, the high street companies listed below are five of the highest ranking and most ethical companies from Ethical Consumer’s product guides.

All five companies score well across the ‘ethiscore’ ratings system, gaining product sustainability marks for using Fairtrade and organic accreditation schemes.

‘Being an ethical consumer can be simple if you know where to look. We’ve listed our top five ethical mainstream shops that you can find on the high street.’

Co-director at Ethical Consumer


You can smell Lush shops a mile off and, according to Ethical Consumer, ‘their ethics are as sweet-smelling as their products’. This company refuses to test on animals and supports various campaign organisations. It tries to use only natural ingredients and most things are made in the UK so you know workers are unlikely to suffer. They are Fair Tax Mark certified and are an accredited Living Wage employer.

Katie Hill, co-founder of, says, ‘While Lush is a popular choice for Christmas gifts, we encourage readers to take a good look at what’s in the products they’re buying – especially when thinking about gifts for kids. Look out for the COSMOS Natural or Organic logos on products; they’re easy to spot and guarantee no nasties will end up on your skin, in your bodies or in our oceans.’


The Co-op sells everything from food to electricals. They now have food stores in most town centres and are a leader in ethics. They are also owned by an active membership (rather than shareholders) and have a strong internal democracy. They recently released a new ‘Co-operative Way’ action plan that sets out their commitment to tackling a number of issues including climate change and waste. They are a Fair Tax Mark certified organisation.

‘The Co-op’s doing some great things, but if you want to avoid palm oil this Christmas then take a look at Iceland’, says Katie Hill. ‘Iceland has also set new standards when it comes to tackling supermarket plastic.’


Marks and Spencer is a cornerstone of the British high street. It is now a leader in terms of high street ethics and has been applauded from all sides for its Plan A commitments to the environment. In the recent Ethical Consumer guide to supermarkets it came second to the Co-op Group. It also came second in the supply chain ranking and score table in the Ethical Consumer clothes shops guide.


WH Smith is the only large bookseller to score a best rating in the Ethical Consumer ‘Alternatives to Amazon’ bookshops guide for both their environmental reporting and supply chain management. While the company might not shout about its ethics it is clearly taking its social and environmental responsibilities seriously.


The John Lewis Partnership company structure makes it one of the most progressive shops on the high street. The Partnership is an employee-owned business with the workers sharing in company profits and having a say in how the business is run.


The Ethical Consumer Markets Report, which tracks the sales of ethical goods and services, continues to show that the market for ethical goods is growing. In the most recent (2017) report, the ethical market was valued at £81.3 billion.

A recent study from Criteo reveals that ‘virtuous circle’ shoppers are increasing, with 40% of shoppers reporting that they feel more positive about brands that publish their ethical standards.

The Criteo report found that technology is helping consumers make ethical choices about previous purchases. The option to re-sell and recycle purchases makes a third (33%) of UK shoppers feel better about spending money.


The internet is helping people discover more ethical choices and, rather than making shopping a guilty pleasure, it helps reinforce our identity – particularly through the sharing lens of social media. This is a trend that’s likely to keep growing, and last week Instagram announced more features to enable users to shop via the platform.

‘This year the changing shopping habits of the nation have culminated in the closure of a number of big name stores, dubbed the ‘death of the high street’. Online shopping has often been seen as the villain of the piece, but research proves that online shopping can, in many instances, be a more environmentally sustainable choice.

‘Obviously the social aspect of keeping a healthy high street in a community is a different issue entirely; and whilst internet shopping in itself isn’t inherently a bad thing, here at Ethical Consumer we are very clear that online giants like Amazon are.’

Co-director at Ethical Consumer

Online shopping currently accounts for 16.3% of all UK retail and is growing fast. The researchers at Ethical Consumer rated 24 ethical online stores, chosen following feedback from Ethical Consumer magazine readers about which ethical stores they regularly used online.

‘Online stores offer a convenient way to shop, particularly if your local high street doesn’t have a range of independent stores stocking what you want. We’ve selected ten of the best ethical online retailers and the five best big name high street shops to help people make more ethical choices, whether they are buying in advance, or need to make a last-minute present purchase.’

Co-director at Ethical Consumer


The 10 online retailers listed here offer a more virtuous virtual shopping experience, rating highly in the Ethical Consumer ‘ethiscore’ system that considers ethical supply chain management, workers’ rights and animal testing policies...

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03 Dec 2018