What is Conscious Consumerism?
Why green is the new black
Conscious consumerism has taken the commercial world by storm — McDonald’s is now blogging about its corporate social responsibility, while over in the fashion retail word, brands like Everlane and Stella McCartney are thriving on their honest pricing and sustainable business ethics.
But how successful is conscious consumerism, and is it here to stay? Read on for our verdict.
First, understand the scope of conscious consumerism: conscious or ethical consumerism revolves around consumers shopping for products that have been made sustainably without causing harm. Harm refers to effects on the environment, as well as other ethical responsibilities such as fairtrade or the working conditions and wages of workers. These factors speak to the consumers’ best selves and make them feel as if they’re playing a tangible role in contributing to a good cause.
If you’re thinking of riding on the trend of conscious consumerism, step back and consider three main things: trust, empathy, and responsibility.
- Building trust between your business and your consumers is especially important if you’re going to claim social responsibility, corporate or otherwise. You’ll have to start being honest and transparent with your consumers and your prices, production methods, and the business practices you’re adopting. With the shift towards the demand for transparency, brands that don’t already possess strong brand loyalty risk losing customers.
- Empathy is something to consider in your hiring practices. Does everyone on the team share the same moral values? Or are you able to inculcate these values in your company culture?
- Then there’s responsibility — many businesses are in it for the profit, not social causes. What causes do your values translate to? And remember: customers appreciate enthusiasm in your activism.
Like every other trend, conscious consumerism has its pros and cons. The most obvious pro is the ability to make a difference, and this difference translates to an uptick in dollars and cents too — research has shown that purpose-driven companies are often more successful.
The danger, however, lies in inculcating a consumer culture of mindless endorsement. Thankfully, there is a workaround: the concept of ‘trade not aid’, where businesses move away from the practice of donation of a percentage of profits or even a one-for-one model, and instead support developing communities through employment opportunity and education, has proven to be a successful way of navigating this challenge.
Conscious consumerism is definitely international, but it’s also taken root with local businesses. Covenant Jewellery, for example, is a local artisan jewellery brand that supports artisanal employment in Cambodia by providing viable careers for artisans who have fallen out of employment. There’s KALAIA, a local clothing label which operates on a zero wastage policy, and upcycles unused or redundant fabrics and products by incorporating them into its clothing designs. MATTER, a socially responsible lifestyle label, practises ethical production through rural employment opportunities, fair trade practices, and even by using environmentally friendly production methods.
The final verdict? These businesses have received positive feedback internationally — which means the trend is not going anywhere anytime soon.
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