Companies such as Cadbury’s owner and Amazon have been criticised for their unethical tax practices – but when it comes to last-minute gift-buying, what are the best alternatives?

Christmas gifts

Don’t take the wrap: there are many ethical retailers to buy Christmas gifts from. Photograph: Emily Lai/Alamy

Christmas is a time for giving and for getting – but, for some companies, it comes at the end of a year of giving the tax man the slip and forgetting that staff are an important part of their success. Last week, it was revealed that Sports Direct searches its workers daily, harangues them by PA and has made some too worried to take time off to pick up their sick children from school. We also learned about the tax planning that allowed Cadbury’s parent firm Mondelez to pay no UK corporation tax in 2014, while the tax affairs of Apple and Amazonalso remain under scrutiny. So if you don’t want to reward these firms with your hard-earned cash this Christmas, here are some alternatives.



It’s not just Amazon that you might want to avoid when it comes to buying books for Christmas – the internet giant owns what, on the face of it, seems like a big rival: Book Depository. The best option is usually to support your local bookshop – and if you’ve never visited before you can find it through

Of course, there’s also the Guardian Bookshop. As well as supporting the newspaper’s journalism, it offers discounts. This year’s surprise hit Norwegian Wood is selling for £4 off the RRP, at £16, and 20p from every book you buy will go towards the Guardian and Observer charity appeal. Then there’s Blackwells. The family-run firm is following the John Lewis approach to business ownership by putting the company in the hands of its employees, and it has many discounts. Marlon James’s Booker prize-winner A Brief History of Seven Killings is £6.29 – £2.70 below RRP, while Simply Nigella has £6 off. There’s also 30% off The Ladybird Book of the Shed, and the rest of the new grown-up range.

Music and DVDs

Music and DVDs has links with local independent retailers, giving them a cut of orders on music, DVDs and Blu-rays (as well as books and ebooks). You can choose which retailer benefits after you check out. For DVDs, there’s also the BBC shop: the range extends beyond the broadcaster’s own products. The profits from sales are returned to the BBC, keeping the licence fee down. Independent music store Rough Trade has shops and an online service, selling mainstream music as well as more obscure albums on vinyl and CD. Adele’s 25 is £10.99 on CD, while Rough Trade’s album of the year, Vulnicura by Bjork, is £9.99.

Divine chocolates.
Divine chocolates. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian


The news that Cadbury’s owner Mondelez did not pay tax on its UK earnings last year may make a box of Dairy Milk santas hard to stomach – and they make Chocolate Orange, too. So which products are guaranteed not to leave a bad taste in the mouth? Green & Black’s was once the go-to brand for confectionary with a conscience, but it is part of the Mondelez group, too. Instead, try Divine Chocolate – its 85% cocoa bar will leave the right kind of bitter taste (£2.19 for 100g). The business is 44% owned by a cocoa farmers’ co-operative, while other shareholders include Christian Aid and Twin Trading, who work with farmers around the world.

Alternatively, opt for Montezuma, which offers everything from chocolate bars to truffles and miniature snowmen, all made in Britain. The firm also pays cocoa farmers “significantly above the open-market price for cocoa and indeed a price above the price paid for “Fairtrade” cocoa”. Cocoa Loco is also made in the UK (West Grinstead, West Sussex) and has the Fairtrade mark. You can buy truffles, slabs and buttons online for delivery up until 19 December, or pick up their chocolate gifts in John Lewis.

Ethical Superstore sells a whole range of goodies from firms including Montezumas and Divine. Montezuma “Grand Collection” of 16 truffles is £11.95, but you will have to spend over £50 to get free p&p on the site.

A soap display at a Lush store in the Walt Whitman Mall Shopping Center in Huntington Station, New York.
A soap display at a Lush store in the Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington Station, New York. Photograph: Alamy


Boots has come in for criticism in the past for its complicated tax structures, so you may want to look elsewhere. For toiletries from a company that seems to have a very clean conscience, Lush is the place to go. It is one of just two retailers to qualify for a Fair Tax Mark. To get this, “a company must be paying the right amount of tax in the right place at the right time and be publishing the material to prove it,” says Meesha Nehru, the campaign’s programme director. When a company has the mark – which they must be re-accredited for each year when they publish their annual results – “[Fair Tax Mark] can see no tax havens have been used to avoid paying tax”. Firms have to sign up to be scrutinised for the scheme – and not all pass.

Alternatively, Weleda has strong sourcing policies, using only fairly traded and ethical palm oil in its products. It has a wide range of gifts on its website, from a pomegranate Christmas tree lantern, £5 to a deluxe Relax and Pamper collection, £55.

Liz Earle Jewellery Fairtrade Rose Yellow gold crystal earrings
Liz Earle Wild Rose stud earrings with crystal drops Photograph: Cred Jewellery

Fashion and jewellery

Fashion retailers don’t have the best reputation when it comes to treating their employees well. There are, however, some who do. People Tree is a Fairtrade certified company that uses organic cotton in its clothing. For outdoor types,Finisterre, Howies and Patagonia all make sourcing, ethical production and the environment a priority within their production process.

Cred is a jeweller that sells a range of ethically-produced sparkly things that are perfect for presents, while Made UK have a great wallet-friendly range, all of which is made by hand.

Christmas dinner and drinks

Alongside Lush, the Co-op Group is the only other retailer to qualify for a Fair Tax Mark, so it’s a good bet for stocking up the drinks cabinet. The retailer is the UK’s largest seller of Fairtrade wine, and stocks drinks from local producers at stores around the country.

But while you can be confident that the Co-op is paying tax where it’s due, only the Co-op Bank is signed up to the living wage – the rest of the group isn’t yet. In contrast, Lidl recently gave staff a pay rise averaging £1,200 a year each when it moved its minimum pay above the living wage, while Morrisons said it would pay shop-floor staff £8.20 an hour – so both would be good options for the big Christmas food shopping trip.

Ethical Consumer magazine rates Waitrose as the most ethical supermarket, butThe Grocer this week calculated that Christmas lunch and all the trimmings would cost a substantial £151 there, so it’s good news that discounter Aldi also appears in the top five. The Co- op, M&S and Ocado make up the rest.

[Source:-the gurdian]

By Adam