“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want” -Anna Lappé
With a population of nearly 7.5 billion people it’s easy to think that our daily choices have limited, if any, impact on making the world a better place. Will switching to organic cotton save the world? Probably not. But it’s definitely a good start.
It’s discouraging to downplay the importance of individual actions. Not only is this ‘drop in the ocean’ attitude defeatist, it’s wrong. This is especially true when it comes to making consumer choices. As author and activist Anna Lappé so sensibly points out, money makes the world go round and we are the ones who are spending it.
Consumer Choice in the Digital Age
Technology and globalisation have completely transformed the way that we, as consumers, are able to access and understand information. Fifty years ago if you wanted to buy a new radio, you probably just walked down to your local store and bought whichever one the salesman felt like moving. Today, we have the internet at our fingertips allowing us to compare hundreds of radios before we find the perfect one.
This digital revolution has completely shifted the balance of power between consumers and brands, and businesses know it. In a Deloitte Consumer Review titled ‘The Growing Power of Consumers’, the consultancy firm warns businesses that if they want to stay relevant, they need to start focusing on developing new strategies to better listen and engage with their potential customers. All of a sudden, we are the ones wearing the pants. And we have the power to really shape big business strategy. So, now that we know that businesses are listening, what are we saying?
Demanding Higher Ethical Standards in Business
An increasing number of consumers are concerned with the moral fiber of the businesses they support. A report conducted by Unilever revealed that a third of consumers are choosing to support brands based on their social and environmental impact. The rising consumer interest in sustainably produced goods was also tracked by Neilson who reported that introducing claims of ‘Sustainability’ was one of the strongest drivers of global sales growth in 2015.
Of the hundreds of brands owned by Unilever, those that integrated claims of sustainability accounted for nearly half of the company’s global growth in 2015. As Keith Weed, Unilever’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer says: ‘This research confirms that sustainability isn’t a nice-to-have for businesses. In fact, it has become an imperative.’
So listen up big business, you need us! If we only open our wallets for companies fighting for what we want, we can create an economy that supports the companies we truly value. Together, we have the power to shape industry standards from the bottom up. So let’s start now!