Writing in the Harvard Business Review blog, economist and marketer Julie Erwin makes a nuanced argument that it may be wounded but would benefit from better marketing.
Critics of ethical consumerism (the idea that we can change the world through our purchases) point out that ethical brands have lower market share. Ipso facto, ethics must not matter as much as price or convenience (goes the argument). Erwin's argument: current sales aren't a valid measure of ethical consumerism because brands do a poor job of marketing ethical choices. More trenchantly, she notes that we all hold multiple values (for example, a "Sierra Club" sticker on a gas-guzzler). "Ethical consumers exist," she writes, "but context has to draw them out. That is the marketer's task ... If low price is all a company offers, it's easy for consumers to walk away when a lower price comes calling."