2020 started off with a conscious consumer bang. We were ready to dive into companies that cared about their employees, the environment, and their customers. We were looking forward to shopping at local farmer’s markets and supporting other local businesses.
Then COVID hit like a ton of bricks. We no longer had the time to seek out ethical companies. Local shops across the country were shuttered overnight with seemingly no reopening in sight.
So where does this leave the conscious consumer movement? This movement is still very important–the need for companies to still be held accountable and implement environmental practices is greater than ever. But in the wake of this global pandemic, the future of the movement is uncertain.
According to a study by Good Must Grow, most good consumer behaviors are trending up during the pandemic. People are reducing their consumption of energy and fuel, they’re buying more goods and services from socially responsible companies, and they are recycling and paying attention to how much waste they produce.
However, these changed habits don’t account for the fact that people are simply spending less on discretionary items than they were before. With unemployment skyrocketing in May and financial insecurity becoming a very real issue for many Americans, supporting the local gift shop or ceramicist doesn’t make a lot of financial sense.
This gets us back to the original question: is the conscious consumer movement going to survive the pandemic?
I don’t have all the answers, but I have some ideas. It seems like online shopping is the future. Compared to the last week of February (pre-pandemic), online sales were up 40% for the last week of May. More and more people are staying inside and shopping from their couch rather than venturing out to the nearest store. This makes sense. Less risk of exposure to coronavirus, more variety and options of products, and simply easier. The next step for online conscious consumerism is getting more small businesses online. By building an online platform, local businesses expand their customer base, reach, and, hopefully, sales.
From the outside, the conscious consumer movement can feel exclusive and expensive. But it doesn’t need to be. By expanding the online presence of conscious businesses (perhaps with a shop on Mindful Market), more consumers unfamiliar with conscious consumerism will be exposed to the movement and see its virtues.
The affordability question may be harder to answer. Consciously created products may be a bit more expensive, but that cost goes towards ensuring ethical business practices, sustainable materials, and peace of mind. But I don’t think this movement is sustainable in a business sense if aspects of it don’t become more affordable. I’m not saying everything has to be at Amazon prices or shipping speeds–that is simply not possible, nor should it be when using fair labor practices. But finding ways to make products more affordable, will allow them to be more accessible.
The conscious consumer movement is nothing unless it has a dedicated base of people who believe in and support it. I think there’s a great opportunity for the movement right now as things are reopening and consumption is probably going to increase. Making more conscious businesses accessible via online sales platforms is the first step towards continuing the momentum of the movement. The next step, albeit a bit harder, will be to increase the affordability of products sold by conscious businesses.
This movement is just beginning. People have shown they care about the values intrinsic to the conscious consumer movement. Spread awareness of this movement. Tell your family members who have never heard of it. Convince your friend to buy from a local business rather than Amazon. Think about where a product is coming from before you buy it.
Anyone can be a conscious consumer. Start today on Mindful Market!