The importance of ethics for consumer trust: ‘Can and should are not the same question’

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

The importance of ethics for consumer trust: ‘Can and should are not the same question’
The perception that a food company has high ethical standards may be more important to consumer trust even than its ability to demonstrate competence, according to a presentation from CEO of the Center for Food Integrity Charlie Arnot.

Arnot told delegates at the recent Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) conference in Orlando, Florida that the food industry often answers consumer questions about the ethics of certain processes or practices with scientific information about the practices themselves. However, in order to retain consumer trust, companies should recognize questions about ethics and values, and answer underlying concerns, he said.

These may include the humane treatment of animals, or the safety of genetically modified organisms or nanotechnology, for example.

“In the past we have answered their questions by saying that science says we can,”​ he said. “Can and should are not the same question.”

According to research published in the Journal of Rural Sociology​, confidence in food companies’ ethical values is more important to maintaining consumer trust than the ability to demonstrate competence.

Arnot said: “What we found on every level is that confidence or demonstration of shared values is three to five times as important as demonstration of competence…It is easier for consumers to relate to the values of an individual than those of an entity.”

When it comes to priorities driving consumer purchase decisions, food safety is the number one concern, and a recall or food safety scandal can taint the reputation of an entire industry sector.

 “There is significant economic value to maintaining consumer trust,”​ Arnot said. “If something happens in your sector or your industry, social license is taken away from the whole sector. It’s never limited to the bad actor. So it’s important that we work together with colleagues.”

While Arnot said that trust has to be built on ethical grounding, he added that engaging stakeholders and external manifestation of values in best practices, certification and continuing education are also vital.

“You don’t have to always agree with stakeholders, but you do have to meet with them,”​ he said.

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Sustainable Sweetening Solutions from ADM

Sustainable Sweetening Solutions from ADM

Content provided by ADM | 13-Oct-2023 | Product Brochure

ADM understands sweetness—and sustainable sourcing. Not only do we have the industry’s most comprehensive portfolio of sweetening solutions, we also are...

 Four actionable steps to reduce allergen recalls

Four actionable steps to reduce allergen recalls

Content provided by FoodChain ID | 04-Oct-2023 | White Paper

Failing to mitigate allergen risks has serious consequences - not just for consumer safety, poor allergen procedures can also cause financial losses and...

Accelerate your new product development (NPD)

Accelerate your new product development (NPD)

Content provided by FoodChain ID | 02-Oct-2023 | White Paper

Delivering new products to market is a complex process with multiple challenges that results in a failure rate of between 30-40%.

Injection Molding Solutions: Key Considerations

Injection Molding Solutions: Key Considerations

Content provided by Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. | 27-Sep-2023 | Insight Guide

Food and consumer packaged goods (CPG) producers are now facing a number of new challenges and opportunities.

These include the rising adoption...

Related suppliers

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars