A consumer is anyone who purchases goods and services for personal use. If you recently spent money on clothes, food, or a haircut for yourself, you’re a consumer. Businesses make products/services, sell them to consumers, and the consumers make use of them. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Most consumers only see this side of the story. They see the value that comes to them from purchasing a car or a house.
The biggest choice they can make is how much money they want to spend on a purchase – or not spend by not purchasing something. But a few among us see the other side of the story: the opposite side of the value chain as seen by a conscious consumer.
Who is a conscious consumer?
A conscious consumer is one who makes purchase decisions based on beyond immediate wants and needs. Every purchase they make is based around the impact of their purchase on the environment, their health, and life in general. It takes some effort to be a conscious consumer. It’s much simpler and easier to just buy what you need and get on with it.
Because conscious consumerism requires that we care and worry about our health, our lives, or the environment.
It starts with awareness of the opposite side of the value chain: Consumers pay money to businesses/companies for goods and services, the businesses or then use that money to sustain themselves through activities such as hiring people, buying ingredients, etc. Businesses have an important role to play in this value chain. If a honey selling company decides to adulterate its honey, scores of people consuming the honey may face health problems. If a company decides to set up a factory in a remote location, that might create jobs and development for the local community. If a company decides to cut down costs by downsizing, thousands of employees may lose their jobs.
This value chain starts with the consumer. It is the consumer’s choice to purchase from a particular business that adds value to that business. (That’s the purpose of Marketing Departments, by the way – to get customers to choose that brand). That company or brand can then exercise its decision-making opportunity to pass on that value to somewhere else.
In an unconscious world – the kind of world that conscious consumers hate – consumers just buy what they want, and companies just exist to make as much money as possible. Even if making money involves cutting costs in the form of a non-existent waste management system – leading to environmental pollution. Even if making money involves unethical marketing techniques such as lying to the public about the quality of their products to get more sales – leading to overconsumption and lower happiness. Even if making money involves working with sweatshops or child labour.
The conscious consumer takes charge of their purchasing power by using this understanding to ask a few questions before each purchase, such as:
- “Is this item made in line with my values?”
- “Am I supporting a worthy cause?”
- “Are the people who produce this item treated and compensated fairly?”
- “Is this item going to help me in the long run?”
For health-conscious consumers, another question would be:
- “How does this item affect my health in the long run?”
Who came up with conscious consumerism? And Why?
Nobody in particular. Many aspects of Conscious Consumerism have been practiced throughout the world but not in an organised way.
The Conscious Consuming movement began with early organisations such as Adbusters and the Center for a New American Dream. In Boston in the summer of 2003, an alternative gift fair, “Gift It Up!” was organised. In the autumn of 2004, another group of Bostonians formed a group named “Conscious Consuming”. They mostly discussed a broad range of topics, from the environmental impact of consumption to the effect of media and advertising. In 2005, these groups combined into the Conscious Consuming group.
Recently, in 2015, the member nations of the United Nations made a resolution to adopt Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as a ‘universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030’.
In India, the drive for sustainability, dates back to when the Constitution was drafted with a focus on social and economic justice and affirmative action for the environment. Most Indian consumers are health-conscious consumers. However, economic liberalisation in the 1990s resulted in greater disposable incomes, a steep rise in consumerism and a use-and-throw culture, which today has left landfills packed with plastic, e-waste, chemical residue, and non-biodegradable clothing.
Today, Conscious Consumerism is no longer a fringe interest group. It has a diverse range of consumers from health-conscious consumers to eco conscious consumers. It has gotten the attention of businesses worldwide, and marketing phrases such as “eco-friendly”, “no side effects” are all but ubiquitous. Such is the environment in which a conscious brand must thrive.
What is a conscious brand?
A Conscious Brand is a company that is built around the ideas of Conscious Consumerism. It caters to the requirements of Conscious Consumers. This is done in many ways, from compliance with impact regulations to ethical business practices.
Conscious Consumer Brands embrace the questions posed by Conscious Consumers and provides direct answers to these. These answers include making freely available the key information such as:
- Core values that the brand adheres to
- A clear mission statement
- How much a brand pays its rural partners
- Reports on how its various activities affect the environment
In most cases, Conscious Brands are owned and run by people who believe in Conscious Consumerism themselves. It is easy to identify if a Brand is a Conscious Consumer Brand. Simply ask the conscious consumer questions and get the answers! Try to get accurate answers and not just sales pitches.
For health-conscious consumers, conscious brands communicate clear long-term benefits about their products.
How being environmentally conscious can be profitable for a company.
Some benefits that an environmentally conscious or eco friendly company enjoys:
- Saving energy saves costs that add up in the long run
- EnergySage market data shows that up to 75 of electricity costs can be saved by switching to Solar Power
- Government Incentives from social initiatives.
How does Zizira serve conscious consumers?
Zizira’s answers for conscious consumers are as follows:
- The purpose/mission of Zizira is to open up markets for Northeast Indian farmers
- The Zizira Team’s Core Values are: discipline, grit, humility, and hunger
- Zizira’s promise to consumers is to bring authentic pure/unadulterated herbs and spices from Northeast India to their doorstep.
- Zizira cuts out the middlemen and deals directly with farmers so that they can get a fair price for selling their produce.
- By working only with farmers that follow natural farming methods (which is basically organic farming, but it is not officially certified), Zizira incentivises farmers to take proper care of the land.
Zizira's impact on the environment is very minimal as almost all of the packaging materials are plastic-free and Zizira only chooses to work with eco friendly packaging companies and other eco friendly companies in India.
How do you feel about the brands you regularly buy from? Have you considered conscious consumerism? Let us know in the comments below!