Ethics and organic business – communicating with customers
Representatives of Welsh organic food businesses attended a workshop at Treberfedd, Ceredigion, last week to find out more about communicating their values to consumers, as part of Organic Centre Wales' Better Organic Business Links project.
Leading the course was Dr Tom MacMillan of the Food Ethics Council, who covered questions such as what consumers expect, what ethical issues face businesses, how to trade fairly with other businesses and how to communicate ethical practices and values to the consumer.
Sue Fowler, Director of Organic Centre Wales said: “Research and market data show that despite the recession consumers are willing to pay extra for products which deliver additional benefits. These include benefits to their own personal health, the environment and the community within which businesses are located. We want to help businesses analyse and understand the role of organic systems in delivering such benefits. If they can communicate these benefits to their customers effectively then both the business and the consumer will gain.”
The workshop included a session based on work by Dr Susanne Padel of the Organic Research Centre Elm Farm and the CORE Organic Farmer Consumer Partnerships project. The work has identified that the top three ethical considerations for consumers are animal welfare, regional production and fair prices for farmers.
Dr MacMillan said “These need to be communicated as specifically as possible. Telling the consumer that birds are 'free to range in organic pastures', for instance, is better than saying that you have 'high welfare standards'. Telling them the location of your farm allows them to decide how local you are.”
The workshop was organized by the Better Organic Business Links (BOBL) project at Organic Centre Wales as part of its commitment to developing ethical trade and cooperative models for organic businesses in Wales. More workshops will be organized later in the year. Please contact OCW for more information.
The Food Ethics Council will also provide ten Welsh organic businesses with one-to-one support. This will allow businesses to look in more detail at how to make ethical decisions, and provide the opportunity to get expert advice and guidance on the ethical issues and responsibilities they are faced with.
The BOBL Project has teamed up with the Food Ethics Council to publish a bilingual toolkit which has been sent to organic businesses in Wales.
Dafydd Owen, Organic Centre Wales, Aberystwyth University SY23 3EB. Tel. 01970 622248, e-mail email@example.com.
Notes for the editor
1. Organic Centre Wales is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government to provide information on organic food and farming to producers, food businesses, consumers and others. It is based at Aberystwyth University and run by a partnership consisting of the ADAS, the Organic Research Centre Elm Farm, and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University. See www.organiccentrewales.org.uk.
2. BOBL is an Organic Centre Wales project and is funded under the Supply Chain Efficiencies scheme as part of the Welsh Assembly Government Rural Development Plan. The project is designed to support the primary producer in Wales and grow the market for Welsh organic produce in a sustainable way. The project will develop new, emerging and existing markets for organic produce whilst driving innovation, at all levels, within the supply chain. The overall aim is to support a thriving Welsh organic sector so that the benefits of WAG investment in the Organic Farming Scheme to generate agri-environmental benefits, and in the Welsh Organic Action Plan to support rural development and sustainable food production, can be fully realised.
3. For more information about the Food Ethics Council see www.foodethicscouncil.org.