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Shopping used to be a simple process. If you needed something, you bought it, based on two considerations–the product met your need and was within your budget. This purchasing logic applied to food, clothes, fuel for your car (plus the car itself), and everything else. Then, consumers started asking questions. Were manufacturers cutting corners just to turn a quick profit? And would the resultant substandard products soon be obsolete or inoperative? Add to that the social and environmental impact of some manufacturing processes, and consumer guilt started to creep into people’s purchasing decisions. This laid the foundation for ethical consumerism.

Today, it’s not enough that a product meets the buyer’s standards. Producers should also implement fair business practices, use sustainable materials, and follow environmentally friendly processes. In addition to buying products responsibly, ethical consumerism also places the burden on companies to produce goods that pass ethical standards. It’s an effective incentive, considering failure to react could see dwindling customer numbers or even outright boycotts.

Why Ethical Consumerism Is Becoming the Norm

When factory workers in the 1700s began clamoring for better working conditions, they knew that things wouldn’t improve unless consumers took their side. When this eventually happened, the United Kingdom passed the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act of 1802, which required businesses to improve conditions for workers below the age of 21. This legislation soon gave way to several movements that advocated for better workplaces and more humane worker treatment.

woman searching for mindful products ethical consumerism

Two hundred years later, consumers found themselves at a crossroads. Modern technology and mass production systems made many goods available and affordable. It became easier–and cheaper–to buy mass-produced items for a few cents instead of visiting your neighborhood store to buy locally-made products.

Then, the paradigm shifted. To differentiate competing products–which are frequently facsimiles of one another–today’s consumers weigh up the different manufacturers’ values, checking whether they align with their own. This means buyers may well avoid a cheaper, mass-produced plastic doll made in a factory with questionable labor practices and inferior materials. Rather, they’ll opt for a sustainably sourced wooden toy handcrafted by local labor. It doesn’t matter if the latter costs a few dollars more.

Why the Mindful Shopper Segment Is Worth It

If you think that only a handful of buyers would pay more to assuage their consumer guilt, think again. A 2020 McKinsey Consumer Sentiment survey revealed that more than 60% of American consumers would gladly pay more for products packaged with sustainable materials. The growing calls to save the environment, implement fair wages, and use sustainable materials are making an impact.

Growing ethical consumerism concerns coincide with the rise of Generation Z as the majority generation. Those born between 1997 and 2012 now make up some 40% of the global consumer population. As such, they hold considerable power over companies. They want sustainable brands, ethically sourced materials, and fair wages. Plus, they don’t mind paying more to get these things, especially from local sources. But, more importantly, Gen Z buyers will profess loyalty to brands that they believe in.

How to Tap Into the Ethical Consumerism Market

Companies eager to tap into the lucrative Gen Z market–worth around $450 billion–should take note. Despite their impulsive buying behavior and preference for influencers, they’re very particular about who they deal with. Therefore, brands have to offer more than a unique selling proposition and an attractive price point. For starters, they’ll need to embrace ethical consumerism instead of focusing solely on a cost-efficient supply chain.

Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to tap into the Generation Z-led ethical consumer market:

Create Sustainable Brand Values

First off, drop any unethical practices that could potentially place your brand on a blacklist. If needed, reevaluate your manufacturing and supply chain networks to ensure sustainable and ethically sourced production. The benefits will extend beyond simply having more customers. Increased efficiency in manufacturing, lower energy consumption, and less waste generation can all add up to reduced operational costs. Ultimately, savings on operations leads to higher profitability.

Communicate Ethical Practices Within Your Product Catalog

Switching to ethical and sustainable practices won’t amount to much if your customers aren’t kept in the loop. Make sure to drive home the point when displaying your products or merchandising your wider product line. For example, selling clothing made from sustainable materials and nontoxic dyes makes a notable impact on observant consumers. For locals, knowing that every sale supports your fellow countrymen instead of an overseas sweatshop is another favorable indicator.

A clever way to promote your brand’s ethical stance is by creating catalog entries dedicated to your advocacies. Buyers can then home in on product categories highlighting locally sourced materials and sustainable work processes.

Underscore Your Brand Advocacies

What are the best ways to promote your adoption of ethical consumerism practices? Say you’re hiring local labor and using only locally grown raw materials, now’s a good time to talk about it. Supply data to provide some context to your message. To illustrate, disclosing that you pay fair wages and support local suppliers will demonstrate your commitment to stimulating the local economy. Moreover, it’s a great counterpoint to traditional sellers who collect money from customers but share nothing in return.

Get customers to join you in spreading the word. Their testimonials, reviews, and shared experiences can help convince other prospects of your authenticity. While ethical practices will attract attention, don’t neglect testimonies about the quality of your products. Additionally, don’t settle for influencers or celebrities just because they’re currently trending. Rather, seek out the individuals that align most effectively with your values and advocacies to promote your brand. This way, you’ll generate authentic connections that your audience can relate to.

Sell Your Products as a Lifestyle

Your brand might already be promoting a particular lifestyle. Now’s the time to add ethical consumerism to that profile. Your products shouldn’t only be useful to consumers, they should also appeal to buyers’ best selves. As such, make sure your brand reflects attributes such as equality, fairness, and sustainability. Buying and consuming products can then affirm customers’ commitment to put responsibility over profits–and leave a smaller environmental footprint in the process.

Adopting a green lifestyle also makes for great advocacy. By urging customers to reuse, reduce, and recycle, you’re reaffirming your brand’s commitment to cutting down on overconsumption and waste. Today’s buyers are increasingly unwilling to deal with companies that add to the growing environmental crisis.

Simplify the Product Discovery Experience

All your ethical consumerism practices won’t amount to anything if your products are difficult to find online. In other words, your goods need to be easy for shoppers to source. If not, you risk pushing would-be buyers to move on to the next brand.

One novel way to highlight your ethical lifestyle offerings is through strategic merchandising. Create specific collections based on certain qualifiers. For example, provide a page dedicated to locally-sourced products, items made with recycled materials, or even “Earth Day” specials. Get creative by labeling your collections with impactful messages, such as “Gifts the Earth Will Also Love” or “Waste-proof Wearables.”

Smart Merchandiser Helps You Create Better Catalogs

Arranging your products for digital merchandising can be a handful without the proper tools. Spreadsheets and inventory management software only goes so far. As a result, your team may be left scrambling with printouts and data re-entries. Instead, let Smart Merchandiser take care of your merchandising tasks easily and more efficiently. This includes creating and maintaining special categories that draw attention to your ethically-manufactured products.

Learn more about how Smart Merchandiser can automate your eCommerce processes. Just contact us and we’ll be happy to arrange a free demonstration.