This essay examines the ethical concerns which are foremost in the communities in which the Cooperative Group operates. The discussion argues that most important among these ethical concerns are the dual problems of global ethical dilemmas, led by the issues of fair trade and climate change, but also a keen interest in supporting local communities and local suppliers. The latter has become increasingly important in light of the financial crisis as it often a key factor in how local communities fare. The discussion begins with a critical analysis of how these ethical concerns affect local communities before reflecting briefly on how the Cooperative can be seen to assisting with such problems. The Cooperative Group operates throughout the entirety of the UK. It can therefore be said that broadly speaking, the ethical considerations which effect the communities in which the Group operates are the ethical considerations which are currently foremost among the UK population as a whole. As outlined in the introduction, these issues can broadly by summarised as a concern about the environment and concerns about global poverty, international development and the role of trade in dealing with such problems. The UK voluntary sector is one of the best supported in Europe and has an annual turnover into the tens of billions (Harris 2001). Whilst this is not explicitly relevant to the role of the Cooperative Group it nonetheless illustrates the general spirit of the British nation and the importance which they attach to ethical considerations in life. These ethical concerns are important ones for the Cooperative Group to consider as much has been made recently of the role of consumer choice in shaping the nature of the world’s problems (Klein 2010 p.242). There is therefore a strong connection between the ethical considerations of such communities and the role of the Cooperative Group. We must therefore acknowledge that one of the biggest concerns which many people feel in relation to the issue of climate change and global poverty has been the sense of how best they can help with the problem on an individual level. In an age when many people have lost faith in traditional political routes to problem solving or addressing ethical concerns, there is more and more emphasis placed on the importance of consumer choice. Writers such as Klein (2010), Tomlinson (1999) and Giddens (2002) have all been involved in arguing that perhaps one of the most important ways in which people can change the world in which they live is through supporting movements such as the Fair Trade movement, through taking an interest in the carbon footprint of their shopping and in generally being a much more politically aware consumer. Such arguments argue that consumer choice can effectively be used as a less dramatic form of economic sanction to place diplomatic pressure on certain areas to either reform their political practice, or to operate in a more considered manner.
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