The conscious consumer is someone who is aware their everyday purchase decisions are a means of bringing about positive change in the world. This could include buying fair trade, organic, locally made, environmentally friendly, animal friendly (including free from animal testing / free range / cruelty free) and products that are free from
The share of consumers identifying with the conscious mindset is growing. Nielsen surveyed 29,000 consumers from around the world in 2013 and found that half of them said they would be willing to reward companies that give back to society by paying more for their goods and services. This percentage was up from previous data in 2011 with increases observed in both genders and across all age brackets.
Unfortunately, conscious consumers can find it difficult to act in accordance with their desires if they don’t know which companies they should reward. In 2013 the European Commission surveyed 32,000 consumers and found that the majority (79%) said they are interested in knowing how companies are socially responsible but almost two thirds felt they weren’t being well enough informed. In order to address this information gap, conscious consumers are turning to social media.
Buycott is a free app that lets consumers make more conscious decisions by scanning product barcodes using a smartphone. The app gives consumers information about which companies own the brand and whether these companies are in conflict with users’ own values. Campaigns can be created by users around a cause to target companies with a boycott unless they change their position. Not all brands around the world are featured on the app but users can send details of unknown brands they scan to the owners to be added to Buycott’s ever increasing database. When Buycott was initially released in 2013 the number of people downloading the app caused servers to crash. Its popularity continued to sky rocket with the app reaching No. 10 in the Google Play store and exceeding 100 downloads per minute.
INDIGENOUS Fair Trade + Organic is a clothing company that has developed the Fair Trace Tool TM which utilises QR code technology to make supply chains personal. Clothing tags are printed with a QR code which users scan with a mobile device. Users are then taken to videos and information about the artisans who made the garment with additional information available about their wellbeing and impacts on the community. With labour conditions in the garment industry being questioned by consumers, especially after such horrific events as the Bangladesh factory collapse, major fashion brands are now contemplating similar types of technology in order to meet consumer expectations of transparency and social good.
Conscious Consumers is an organisation informing consumers about hospitality businesses who are environmentally and socially responsible in New Zealand. They award businesses with ‘online badges’ in an attempt to separate businesses that are living up to their social responsibilities from those who are simply ‘greenwashing’ (i.e. marketing that claims a business is green but is fundamentally deceptive). Conscious Consumers’ Facebook page received over 10,000 likes in the first 10 months of being created and the organisation has since released a smartphone app. The app allows users to locate hospitality venues, learn about the positive impacts the accredited businesses are making, and to get rewarded with ethical specials and loyalty points.
Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide is an online and iPhone app that provides users with recommendations about seafood that is harvested sustainably and sold in supermarkets, restaurants and fish & chip shops right around the country. It has information on over 100 types of seafood specific to Australia with choices categorised as “Better Choice”, “Think Twice” and “Say No”. The producers of the app, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, have even teamed up with Greenpeace to offer advice on responsible sourcing practises of canned tuna companies who operate in Australia. With over 75 percent of the world’s fish supply over-fished or fished up to their limit, conscious consumers are able to use this tool to lessen their impact on the oceans.
Locavore is an app that lets U.S., Canadian, and U.K. residents support local farmers producing fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. Based on mobile phone GPS locations, the app searches for in-season, local available food and incorporates maps, pictures of delicious foods, colourful pie graphs and charts. For conscious consumers who want to support local farmers and farmers’ markets, they can find them easily in their area, as well as read more about them on dedicated profile pages, and link through to Locavore’s Facebook page to engage with other like-minded consumers.
Social media has proved it is highly responsive to the needs of conscious consumers and can fill the information gaps that businesses and brands have left unanswered. Apps like the ones featured above are influencing consumers directly at the point of purchase and are making it easier and more convenient than ever for consumers to make purchase decisions that positively impact the planet.