Social forecaster Patricia Aburdene—author of the 2005 book “Megatrends 2010″—predicted that future consumers would begin to spend money with socially responsible companies. She believed consumers would prefer to patronize companies that shared a similar belief system of giving back to the community. It was a prediction of a rise in the “conscious,” or “ethical,” consumer.
This is indeed starting to happen and it can be witnessed by a shift in the corporate paradigm. For example, here is a quote from an article published in Time Magazine in 2012, “Ten years ago, for instance, only about a dozen Fortune 500 companies issued a CSR or sustainability report. Now the majority does. More than 8,000 businesses around the world have signed the UN Global Compact pledging to show good global citizenship in the areas of human rights, labor standards and environmental protection. The next generation of business leaders is even more likely to prioritize CSR. According to data released this month by Net Impact, the nonprofit that aims to help businesses promote sustainability, 65% of MBAs surveyed say they want to make a social or environmental difference through their jobs.”
Businesses conduct themselves according to how the consumer behaves.
It is a two-sided seesaw on the playground of capitalism. On one end we have what exists as “Corporate Social Responsibility.” What exists on the other is what is known these days as, “Consumer Social Responsibility.” It is also being referred to as, “Conscious Consumerism,’ and “Ethical Consumerism.” The common denominator for these concepts is this:
Harnessing your power as a consumer to become an advocate as to how a company conducts itself.
This is done by utilizing what is known as a consumer’s “dollar vote” and purchasing from companies that incorporate people and the planet into their business model along with profits.
According to this article in the Guardian, the conscious consumer is indeed a growing trend: “A third of UK consumers claim to be very concerned about issues regarding the origin of products. A study from YouGov and the Global Poverty Project revealed that 74% of those surveyed would pay an extra 5% for their clothes if there was a guarantee workers were being paid fairly and working in safe conditions. If you’re thinking that 5% doesn’t sound like a lot, consider the fact that the fashion industry could take a staggering 125 million people out of poverty by adding only 1% of its profits to workers’ wages.” A growing altruistic undertow can also be witnessed in various other growing trends. Such as:
- There was over 373 billion given away to charitable organizations in 2015 alone. Which was an increase from the previous years.
- According to a Neilson Global Survey, 50% of consumers are willing to pay more for socially responsible products.
- According to the GIIN (Global Impact Investing Network,) there is over 60 billion invested in what is known as Social Impact Investing.
An increase in other trends has also been noted. Trends such as:
- Consumer purchasing of recyclable shopping bags.
- More readily available products available at grocery stores that are labelled Fair Trade.
- An increase of businesses obtaining 3rd party certification such as Fair Trade or Benefit Corporation.
- The rising popularity of tiny houses.
- The rise in popularity of activities such as urban farm steading and upcycling.
- A surge of success of companies in what is known as “The Sharing Economy.”
The consumer data is available as to how companies are performing in terms of sales. However, aggregated data pertaining to “why” consumers are behaving this way is scarce.
Why are economies seeing a shift in an increase of consumers downsizing, simplifying, and adopting what is considered to be mindful living? Why are consumers adopting behaviors of which could be a correlation to identifying as a conscious consumer? What are the reasons behind what is happening?
The following are some plausible theories that may explain these emerging trends:
First, this could be attributed the fact that the millennial generation makes up more than a quarter of the market population and account for an estimated 1 trillion of U.S. consumer spending. In a study by Horizon Media’s Finger on the Pulse, “81% of Millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship.”
Second, this could be an old fashioned, vanilla flavored, economic trend. One theory would point towards what is known as “Kondratiev Waves.” In a nutshell, this theory was created by a Soviet Economist by the name of Nikolai Kondratiev. His theory stated that there are 40-60 year economic cycles in every modern society. So, if that is the case, we are repeating the 1960’s.
Third, maybe there really is not any particular reason at all? Maybe not just a singular one? Maybe our lives are too complicated to be explained with just one notion, quip, reasoning, or quote.
For example: Have you ever heard of the saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” in a certain situation? It is a notion that one could take solace in, and apply to a particular situation. However, what about the popular saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.” That could apply too?
Whatever the reasons, I am glad the increase of conscious consumerism is happening.
What do you think the reasons are?
Until Next Time…..