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3 reasons why the conscious consumer is not just a trend

Welcome to the world of conscious shopping, an ever-growing global movement making profound changes to the way we consume goods and services every single day. The environmental decline of our planet has left an indelible impression on millennial and centennial generations, who consistently choose ethical businesses over well-known, multi-national corporate companies.

Businesses understand the importance of aligning with these consumers’ needs, with big companies adding ethical, fair trade, vegan or natural options to their portfolios. Some are even acquiring small eco and/or ethically focussed brands to spearhead their new strategies.

There is so much opportunity for small-to-large businesses to find new, out-of-the-box solutions to attract conscious consumers.

This is more than a trend – this is the world we now live in. Expect to hear more about these three subjects in 2019.

1. The War on Plastic

If you were shocked by the image of the seahorse with its tail wrapped around a cotton bud, you’re not alone – the photo has left a profound impact on consumers around the world. If you haven’t seen it, Google it – it won’t be hard to find. It was taken by a photographer while snorkelling off the coast of Indonesia in 2016 and quickly went viral.

It has became the poster-child for plastic pollution and raised much-needed publicity about mass-market consumption and its impact on the environment. Importantly, it raised awareness of the impact of plastic, particularly single-use plastics, and its journey from rubbish bins to the oceans. Approximately eight million new pieces of plastic are washed up on shores every single day.

Zero plastics, zero waste or low waste have become more than buzzwords, they have become an opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop brands and innovation that battle the plastic problem.

Plastic-free personal care products like Ethique, a brand from New Zealand, focus on the concept of ‘bars not bottles’, offering solid bars to avoid plastic consumption.

Earth.Food.Love. is a zero-waste supermarket in the UK, encouraging people to consume in a way that ‘doesn’t cost the earth’. It sells food through reusable jars and offering products with non-plastic packaging that are compostable, reusable and ethically made.

The war on waste is in full swing, and consumers are questioning the amount and type of packaging that brands are using. This is a fantastic opportunity for entrepreneurs. 

2. The Slow Fashion Movement

The concepts of ethical, slow and eco fashion have been gaining momentum over the years and have become mainstream. With the help of the Fashion Revolution campaign in 2017, the ethical and environmental impact of manufacturing clothes for the fast fashion industry is now at the forefront of consumers’ concerns.

Retail giants create and promote urgency to purchase more than we require. The vast majority of products are made by workers in developing countries on low wages, often working long hours or in unsafe work conditions.

Slow fashion, on the other hand, aims to create fewer but higher quality, eco-friendly and ethically sourced products, with workers paid fairly and in safe conditions. Greater appreciation is placed on each purchase, creating deeper connections with clothes and accessories instead of another short-term addition to your wardrobe. 

Lyst reports a 47% increase in consumers looking for clothing with ethical and style credentials. Ethical shoe brand Veja took the number one spot in the ‘Insta brands’ ranking with fellow ethical fashion brand Nanushka in number 7 spot.

Consumers have started demanding more transparency from retailers – the hashtag #whomademyclothes, for example, has already led to significant scrutiny on social platforms. Young and emerging brands such as Know the Origin and Dutch brand Mud Jeans in particular are flourishing from a surge in interest in fashion provenance. 

There is a huge opportunity for social entrepreneurs who want to develop a sustainable business model around the slow fashion industry and make a more positive impact on both people and planet.

3. Plant-based diets 
and the rise of veganism

Veganism has gone mainstream in Britain. High Street bakery Greggs caused an almighty uproar (and earned tonnes of free publicity) courtesy of their vegan sausage roll, while multi-national Unilever has rolled out vegan ice cream.

A recent study in the journal Science found avoiding meat and diary products is the biggest single way of reducing an individual’s environmental impact on the planet. Over 60% of agriculture’s global greenhouse gas emissions comes from livestock farming alone. 

Movements like Veganuary, a campaign that urges carnivores and vegetarians to choose a plant-based diet at the start of the year for a month, have seen more and more carnivores eschewing meat in favour of healthier and greener choices.

And as a consequence, supermarket shelves are changing, with more and more dairy and meat alternatives emerging to deliver the ever-growing demand for sustainable options. The proof is in the statistics. As of 2018, the total value of the UK plant-based market was £443 million and over $3.1 billion in the US.

The opportunities for social entrepreneurs in this space is huge. The global market of vegan cheese is expected to be worth just under $4 billion by 2024 and pea protein with $104 million by 2026.

The conscious shopping movement is here to stay. It’s not a trend, it’s a new way of living to lessen our impact on the planet and ensure all people are treated equally. It aims to slow down and eradicate the damage of our consumption.

And the corporate world has cottoned on to its potential. However, multi-nationals will need prove they’re not jumping on the bandwagon solely for profits. If consumers believe big businesses are not embracing positive change, their products will remain on the shelves.

Are you a social entrepreneur or do you have aspirations to be one?

Tell us about what’s driving you in this space! 

Alejandra & Julieta Marketing with purpose
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