The rising culture of conscious consumerism

by Abigél Sheridan. Conscious consumerism means that you purchase with thought and consideration when it is accessible to you.

by Abigél Sheridan. Our world is waking up from oblivion. With the images we see continuously showing us the destruction humankind caused in the last century alone, most of us understand the need to change our behaviour and attitude towards habits and desires we created for ourselves. Conscious consumerism means that you purchase with thought and consideration when it is accessible to you. Conscious consumers are aware of their buying habits’ environmental and social impacts and try to make choices with the lowest negative impact.

Look how we banned single-use plastic in response to the immense pollution it caused in our oceans and natural habitats. David Attenborough reminds us daily that our activities interfere and change the status quo in our ecosystem and biodiversity, causing enormous environmental degradation and breaking the balance of the natural order. The world population clock indicates that we’re close to 7.9 billion people right now, with an anticipated annual growth of ±80 million people. How do we fulfil even the basic needs of our growing population without destroying ourselves in the process? Isn’t this the most significant question to date?

The first step is to educate ourselves and listen to those who are desperately trying to tell us something incredibly important. Change is not easy, and it takes time. It requires us to think, to consider our actions and customs. Be mindful of what we do, how we do it and what kind of impact we create. It requires that we take responsibility. We can do that daily with every purchase we make by becoming conscious consumers.

What can retailers do?

Retailers can do a lot. Companies need to hire changemakers and visionaries who will develop transformational strategies for their products and/or brand. They need to prioritise people and the planet ahead of profit and make serious commitments to sustainability. Companies like H&M are in the news because they are showing examples of how to do it. They pledge that by 2030, 100% of the materials they use will be recycled or sustainably sourced. Many others are making great progress, aiming to use 100% recycled materials, have zero carbon emissions, recycle their products in-store, care about their waste and advocate cruelty-free processing. The future is in the making in front of our eyes, and we need market leaders to show us the way.

The belief-driven buyers are on the rise, and sustainability can talk to the consumer in many ways. Patagonia, a US outdoor clothing company, encourages customers to buy high-quality items of their clothing, wear them as long as possible, and then return them to the company to be refurbished and resold. Thus, one way to encourage eco-friendly consumer behaviour is to build elements of sustainability into how products are used and ultimately disposed of (Source: Harvard Business Review).

Younger buyers are willing to pay more for ethical products. They look at how companies deliver on their promises. The new generation looks beyond price and money (therefore acting more consciously). Amongst other factors, they look at transparency, authenticity and the culture of the brand. The Body Shop has a lot to offer in this regard. The feel-good factor is tangible. It is great to be standing up for something more significant than the products they sell. That is when the seller and buyer meet, and the common ground of a long-term relationship is established. A sense of community is created, and both sides feel satisfied.

Sustainability-driven innovation

Now is the time to create awareness of all good practices, connecting brands to customers authentically. False promises cannot be sustained. The conscious consumer will do the research. So let’s do what we say and take sustainability to the next level. Let’s live consciously:

  • Innovation is required for our survival. We have to re-think the resources we use and the entire life cycle of a product we create. Finding alternative solutions for pressing environmental problems is key, and it’s emerging in all sectors. Sustainability-driven innovation requires improved business operations, meaningful leadership, and a going beyond profit. There are so many emerging technologies to support all this.
  • Incentivise refers to creating loyalty and community with customers. Motivating customers to align with a brand’s cause is incredibly rewarding. Giving buyers the chance to make eco-friendly choices has never been easier.
  • Inspire and motivate your customers with better products and solutions. There is extensive research and help out there; invest in your mission. Customers want to do the right thing and search for conscious manufacturers, retailers and brands that support this. Sooner than later, the majority of purchases we make will contribute to the much-needed boost in the environmental and social sphere, creating an economy of conscious consumers.

Main image credit: Photo by Karina Tes on Unsplash.


Abigél Sheridan is the founder of Chic Mamas Do Care, a South African volunteer-based, purpose-led brand founded on sustainable fashion, intent on supporting educational development projects to help break the cycle of poverty in SA. It was founded in 2010 by Sheridan in her living room in Cape Town with the ambition to help make a positive impact on educational development projects. She did this by facilitating the sale, trade and swapping good quality preloved clothing, with all proceeds going towards the selected project beneficiaries. Chic Mamas Do Care has established boutique stores based in Cape Town, Joburg and Durban. The NPO has supported pre-schools, literacy and numeracy projects, and ECD (Early Childhood Development) centres over the years.

– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every WednesdaSubscribe here.