Experts at the University of Zürich and the Institute for Social-Ecological Research in Frankfurt wanted to explain why the appetite for fair trade is higher in some countries than others.
They selected Germany and Switzerland – two countries that “differ strongly in the consumption of fairly traded products, but at the same time show rather minor differences in central socio-economic indicators” – to carry out their study, published in the journal, Berliner Journal für Soziologie (in German with English abstract).
The team surveyed 3,900 consumers in Cologne and Zürich and assessed the range of products available at a total of 650 shops in the two cities.
The Swiss respondents had greater purchasing power, on average, than the Germans but these differences “do not appear to play a role” in driving higher consumption levels, explained Jörg Rössel, professor of sociology at the University of Zürich.
Better availability of fair trade products in the shops in Zürich is a significant factor, he and his co-researchers found. However, "it is the stronger ethical push to buy fair trade products in Switzerland that is the decisive factor”.
Intriguingly, they also found that the ethical consciousness of the Swiss could be rubbing off on Germans living in Switzerland.
“Our results show that persons in Germany and Germans who live in Switzerland for less than five years buy fair trade foods [less often] than Swiss respondents. On the other hand, we [did] not find a difference between Swiss and Germans with a long stay in Switzerland,” the authors noted.
Again, the availability of products could also be playing a part but are not the lone factor, they suggested.
Germany catching up?
Fairtrade International said the fact the Swiss are buying on average about €58 worth of Fairtrade products a year could be down to a number of factors, “including the wide availability of Fairtrade products in the retail, specialist and catering sectors”. Awareness of the Fairtrade mark is also high, at 88%.
A spokesman was not surprised that the proportion of Fairtrade purchases is also lower in Germany than Switzerland, given that consumers spend less of their total expenditure on food (9.7% versus 11%).
However, there is evidence in Germany of a “positive trend” in Fairtrade consumer spending, he added, which has risen to €12 per capita per year – “and that trend has continued in 2016”.
This is the result of growing diversity and availability of the products as well as growing awareness of the Fairtrade logo, which now stands at 83%, he said.
Source: Berliner Journal für Soziologie
Published online 18 October 2016, doi 10.1007/s11609-016-0312-4
“Sind Deutschschweizer altruistischer als Deutsche? Ein Vergleich des Konsums fair gehandelter Produkte in Deutschland und der Schweiz” (“Are Swiss Germans more solidary than Germans? Comparing the consumption of fair trade products between Germany and Switzerland”)
Authors: Patrick Schenk, Georg Sunderer, Jörg Rössel