ORGANIC – What Does it Actually Mean?

When I wrote my dissertation in International Business Management last year, I had an ongoing discussion with my supervisor as she didn’t understand why I was so eager to write about health, organic, food etc… We didn’t really “click” on this, and after a lot of back and forth and endless discussions I ended up with the boring question “Organic food – to what extent do organically grown food influence ethical consumers and their decision making?”. I wasn’t super excited about this question to be honest (I wanted to write about how nutrition could influence leaders, their decision making and stress management) but at least I managed to add organic and ethics, which made it a bit more interesting for me. A lot of my findings was very obvious to me, and things I already knew, but it kind of become an eye opener for me that most people around me didn’t know what it meant that a product was organic, and asked me such as “what does ethics has to do with food?”. Including my supervisor, who told me over and over again, that organic products was a scam and that conventional food was good enough, and that I shouldn’t waste my time on this topic and just stay with consumer’s decision making in general. This was a real trigger for me and I understood I had some work to do, I first of all had to convince my supervisor why organic and ethics are important topics in today´s society –without failing.... 

Now, I want to share some small parts of my dissertation with you guys, so you hopefully can get a better understanding of what “organic” and “ethic” means and who decides what´s organic or not. The text is just taken out from my dissertaion, so its written in relation to my question as mentioned earlier and its written in an academic way, but it is the inforamtion that matters and I'm positive you understand it anyway :)

Keep reading under the photo....

In the past decades, we consumers have shown an increased demand for socially and environmentally friendly products, such as organic food and products. Organic food is defined by the Soil Association as “food which is produced using environmentally and animal friendly farming methods on organic farms. These methods are legally defined and any food and products sold as “organic” must be strictly regulated” (Soil Association, 2015). All legally produced organic food is labelled with a charity certification symbol, this is for consumers to easier recognize the organic products. Also, when a product is certified as “organic” the farm or production company has been approved by higher control institutions, and also allow inspectors at least once a year to control their productions.

"Organic means working with nature, not against it. It means higher levels of animal welfare, lower levels of pesticides, no manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers and more environmentally sustainable management of the land and natural environment - this means more wildlife!

Soil Association and EU Organic Charity Certification Symbol

Whatever you’re buying – from cotton buds to carrots – when you choose organic food, drink or beauty and textiles, you choose products that promote a better world."

Production of organic food is strictly regulated within the EU, the word “organic” is defined by law, and EU rules apply to labelling, production and control of organic products (, 2013). Soil Association Certification (SACE) is one institution that controls, and are commonly referred to as control body, they are licensed and controlled as an individual organic operator by Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs(Defra). SACE was founded in 1946 by a wide range of people from different areas, such as doctors, farmers, scientist and nutritionists, together they wanted to work on providing an improved relation of the health of the soil, the food, animals and peoples welfare, and of course the environment. Amazingly, today they are responsible for certifying over 70% of all organic product sold in UK today, meaning they are the UK´s leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use (Soil Association Certification, 2015). Their control body charity symbol, that is carried by all their certified products, is the most known in UK. Being labelled as “organic”, means that a minimum of 95% of the ingredients must originate from plants and animals, in other words it contain little to no pesticides (max 5%), the product must have been produced to these regulations and also being inspected and certified by a register control body (Soil Association, 2015). Research, as mentioned earlier, shows that product carrying organic certification symbols has gained consumers and producers trust, confidence and respect is the most recognised in the UK (Soil Association Certification, 2015). According to Organic Monitors consumers research that was published in late 2014, showed that 90% of UK consumers buying organic products say “avoidance of synthetic chemicals is important or very important to them. Certification is increasingly important too, with 43% saying they look for assurance symbols and logos on personal care products – up from 33% in 2007. The Soil Association symbol is the most sought after for certified produce, whit nearly 30% of shoppers saying they look for it”. A study conducted be Newcastle University, found significant differences between organic and non-organic food, it’s the larges study of its kind and showed that organically grown crops ( vegetables, grains and fruit) are up to 60% higher in lots of essential antioxidants, than the non-organic grown, it also showed significantly lower levels of toxic heavy metals in the organic crops (Baranski, 2014). This information is a very important addition for the consumers, as the information until now has been confusing and also in some incidents conflicting. The result of both this research conducted by SACE and the research conducted by Newcastle University proves the importance of trust when buying a product, as with the certification consumers know the controlled process of being labelled as “organic”, but it also shows that the food has a higher number of antioxidants, which is linked to better health. These findings might be a motivational influence for the consumer and the consumers decision-making process, as a motive of trust and knowledge to the products (Blackwell, 2006).

Ethical consumer is a term that covers a wider range of people, not only for organic food consumption, but this includes their consistency of moral and criteria, certain environmental and social issues such as illegal working conditions, animal testing, opposition to pollution,  etc. (Guido, 2009). These motives relate to factors that goes beyond the decision makers control, which are not determined directly by each consumer, but examine personal motivations that drive an individual to consume a certain way. The head of farming at Soil Association, Liz Bowels, said: “These are positive times for the organic sector and we have good reason to believe current levels of market growth will be sustained in the long term. This is thanks to a combination of committed consumers who understand the benefits of organic farming for themselves and the environment, new CAP support for farmers, new research and product innovation, and favourable economic conditions. We are seeing once again that rewards are there for those that stick with organic, make great products and sell them well. The UK organic market is expected to grow steadily again in 2015 and should break the £2 billion barrier in 2016” (Soil Association, 2015). Ethical consumers will be an important role in the ongoing growth of the organic food market, as they have shown their commitments by their decision making on purchasing organic food. Ethical consumers, means in other words that they seek to purchase products that is ethically produced, that do not harm the environment or the society.

So here you got a tiny insight of my dissertation and hopefully it also gave you a better understanding of the importance of organic products, how strict the regualtions and law is for the certification and how ethics is a part of this too. We need to look better after ourselves, the soil and environment - buying organic products is one big step in the right direction. If we damage our soil we also damage the main source of where our food is produced. The soil is packet with good bacterias, minerals and other good components our food needs to give us the nutrtion we need to obtain a healthy life. So please, next time you go shopping, be more aware of what kind of products you are buying and how your choice will influence the world we are living in <3 Happy Saturday <3

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