Conscious consumerism and your retail business

By Greg Bell

Retail is a cut-throat industry. You rely on the support of customers, so their perception of your brand is vital to the business's longevity. Today, with the rise of conscious consumerism, it's all the more important to understand how sustainable and ethical practices can contribute to your business.

The rise of conscious consumerism

A 2017 report from Unilever revealed that one-third of consumers today are choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good.

This sense of consumer accountability has been increasing with the growth of millennials and the older end of Generation Z. In the Deloitte 2017 Millennial Survey, 59 per cent of young people across 30 different countries claimed they felt accountable for protecting the environment, while 53 per cent also felt they were responsible for social equality. Furthermore, over three-quarters believe that businesses have genuine potential to enact positive change in our world.

With social and environmental responsibility weighing so heavily on the upcoming generation of consumers, what can businesses do to appeal to this key market?

Understanding ethical business

Conscious consumers are concerned about the effect a business has on people and the environment. However, exhibiting your investment in positive change requires more than just minimising negative impact – engaging in practices that actively contribute to communities and environmental drives is vital.

Let's take a look at the fashion industry for example. Fashion brands have come under fire in recent years for exploitation of overseas workers. The Ethical Fashion Guide is a project developed by Baptist Aid Australia and Tearfund New Zealand, grading trans-Tasman fashion retailers for their ethics regarding the supply chain. The grading process looks at:

  • Policies,
  • Transparency and traceability,
  • Auditing and supplier relationships,
  • Worker empowerment.

According to Tearfund, the daily living wage for a garment worker in Bangladesh is as low as $11. However, only 11 per cent of brands in the guide pay living wages to their supply chains. Furthermore, fast fashion brands have come to rely more heavily on synthetic materials produced from crude oil in order to keep up to pace.

Maintaining ethical practices along your supply chains is integral to a long-lasting, positive relationship with your customers. Just recently, New Zealand brand WORLD suffered in the wake of criticism for its supply chain sourcing back to underpaid Bangladeshi workers despite a "Made in NZ" tag. This news came after WORLD founder Dame Denise L'estrange-Corbet openly criticised other local brands for low ratings in the Ethical Fashion Guide.

Ethical business requires an awareness of every step along your supply chain. It can also take place in your selection of commercial real estate. To find out more about sustainable, ethical property, talk to the team at Ray White Commercial Gold Coast today.

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