Shop Your Values week, which wrapped up yesterday, has brought attention to the concept of conscious consumerism. The event, spearheaded by Ethikus, provided incentives for consumers to patronize eco-friendly, socially responsible, and locally focused businesses in the form of discounts, free items, and special offers. The website provided a directory of participating stores and restaurants, and a sorting option to help identify retailers that engage in a particular activity, such as employee care or waste minimization. The involved businesses came from a wide range of categories, covering everything from bars to dry cleaning to yoga studios.
With 2,814 pledges and 219 businesses, the week may have been a relatively small event, but its implications are nevertheless important—it is but one of many visible movements towards a more critically minded consumer base, one that likes to know about the “how” and “why” of a product, not just the “what”. These consumers like to see products from local sources, ethical and transparent supply chains, and a larger social focus from businesses.
Larger companies have begun to integrate these ethical credentials into their business models to cultivate ethical clout and attract this new breed of consumer. For instance, Nike, after suffering years of scolding and controversy, has made considerable efforts in improving working conditions and dealing with sourcing issues that still exist. Wal-Mart, McDonald’s have both attempted to reset their sometimes less than stellar track records through high-profile rebranding campaigns. Unlike co-ops, these companies do not have a social goal woven into their DNA, but are attempting to evolve in a more conscious direction.
Good start, but to be truly successful, it can’t just be one week in the year. To truly change the landscape of how companies operate, consumers must take a hard line stance on supporting the values they believe in. Think critically about your purchases – you’ll be doing society a favor.