The ‘conscious’ commerce trend and the rise of the ethically-minded
With the rise of the eco and ethically-mindful generation, consumers are scrutinising retailers more than ever before. Billy Loizou looks at how more companies are making sustainable business decisions. These can range from ensuring products are cruelty-free, to profit-sharing with charities.
More and more consumers will only back companies that have a purpose. A global study, highlighted consumers are four to six times more likely to champion brands with a strong purpose. In another Accenture study, 63 percent of surveyed global consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies that stand for a purpose that reflects their own values and beliefs, and will avoid companies that don’t.
In the past decade, there has been a rise in the number of organisations that are involved in purpose-driven commerce. It is not just not-for-profit and charities getting involved in purpose-driven commerce, big corporations are putting their finger in the purpose pie. This can be seen on the 2021 Purpose Power Index where organisations like 3M, Tesla and LG Corp were in the top 20 Purpose Brands.
Lauren Bush Lauren, is the founder of leading for-profit fashion retail brand Feed and granddaughter of former US President George W. Bush. She recently spoke with Cheetah Digital’s Chief Customer Officer, Michelle Curless during the recent Signals21 event. Lauren spoke about how Feed began, the decision to become a for-profit company, and the rise in purpose-driven commerce.
Starting Feed 15 years ago, a year after graduating from university, Lauren was inspired to establish Feed after travelling around the globe with the UN World Food Programme.
As an impact-driven organisation, Feed offers consumers bags, accessories and home goods from global artisans while offering the artisans and their families meals and sustainable livelihoods.
She created the first Feed Bag as a tangible way for her peers to get involved in combating childhood hunger. Every product the company makes has a number on it, representing the school meals donated with its purchase.
The birth of conscious consumerism
Lauren explains when she was beginning Feed, Product Red and TOMS were also starting on their purpose-driven commerce journey.
“This was the birth of conscious consumerism and customers starting to pay more attention to the products they’re buying, the ethos of the brand and what they’re supporting behind closed doors. I’ve seen it evolve into activism consumerism, where people are not only purchasing from companies that align with their personal values but also boycott companies with values they don’t support,” Lauren says.
When Lauren started Feed, many organisations would sit on the sidelines and let societal problems and issues play out.
“That’s not the world we’re living in now,” says Lauren. “I recently read an Edelman Trust Survey, which found that business has become the most trusted institution for consumers. The survey suggested that there’s been a significant loss of trust in media, government organisations and NGOs, which has prompted people to look at businesses in carrying that mantle.”
The survey highlighted that CEOs should be outspoken over societal problems and take action where the government is staying idle.
“It’s interesting where people and consumers are placing their trust and expectations nowadays. It is more interesting to be a business leader now because not only do you need to run your business and be mindful about your products and services, you also need to be able to do so very consciously and mindfully,” explains Lauren.
Feed has always been a digital company, and the pandemic has accelerated its strategy into targeting customers online.
“The pandemic has really focused us. We’re omnichannel, we have a brick and mortar store in Brooklyn that’s been open and closed, and open again. But if anything, the pandemic focused our strategy online into reaching customers in new and different ways and building that virtual community,” Lauren says.
How to become a purpose-driven company
For organisations that are looking to become a purpose-driven company, Lauren says they need to ground their company around the purpose.
“Customers can sniff out when something is good washing or greenwashing. The benefit you have from starting from scratch is the purpose of your business can be established from day one. You don’t have to reinvent it, and you don’t have to rewrite it in five years.
“The benefits of having a purpose is that it helps you recruit other dedicated like-minded people to your company. They too are looking for companies that share a purpose at the core of their DNA. But showcasing that purpose joyfully and authentically to your customers and employees, it gives businesses an opportunity to build a community. Using that community can be very beneficial to your brand,” Lauren explains.
“I do see that the cost of doing business these days is to be grounded in a purpose beyond shareholder dollars and profit. And that makes me very optimistic for the future.”
Throughout the 15 years of working at Feed, the company has partnered with other purpose-driven organisations, created a range of products and continues to evolve. Lauren notes she is proud that Feed always comes back to their mission.
“Our mission is to create good products that help feed the world, especially children. That has been the Northstar for me as the CEO but also for our company. This mission helps us filter who to partner with or what channels to focus on, and help make all those daily decisions like any other company,” Lauren ends.
The Signals21 Session, The Power of being Purpose-Driven with Lauren Bush Lauren, is available to watch on-demand here.
Billy Loizou is the vice president of Go To Market APAC, Cheetah Digital.