The ethical brand report: cause for hope?

Sam Hoeben

Sam Hoeben

Business Development Manager @ the merrier

6 Sep 2018 | 5min read

The Merrier Business Development Manager Sam Hoeben reviews changes in marketplace dynamics and explains why the future looks bright for conscious consumers.

Consumers have never had more options to make ethical choices with their purchasing decisions. At the same time, consumers have never had more opportunity to do the exact opposite. There is an ethical product or service available for every consumer need right now. And not just one. In many cases there are multiple options and healthy competition.

Yet, on the flip side, ‘fast’ goods rule. There is a mass produced ‘fast’ good for every one of those consumer needs, and this market is even more competitive than the ethical one.

What does this mean for the planet? Where are we going as a society and civilisation when lowest cost mass consumerism is wreaking havoc on our social structures, our environment and human rights, and mainstream consumers are happily paying to accelerate the problem?

I’ve spent the best part of this year studying companies, brands, organisations, manufacturers, primary producers, small businesses and startups that do the right things for the right reasons. Businesses of all sizes, from sole traders to global brands with tens of thousands of employees.

I’m happy and encouraged to report that my year of research has been one of the most uplifting experiences of my life. I have dozens of stories, which I plan to share in upcoming reports. These include:

  • The Australian skincare company investing in glass technology to extend the shelf life of its products by preserving the integrity of their natural ingredients.
  • The potato chip company turning it’s used cooking oil into biodiesel for employees’ cars.
  • The bedding companies channeling significant profits to literacy scholarships for young women in developing companies.
  • The global fashion chain building an environmental impact measurement tool on WeChat for its Chinese consumers to inform them of the environmental cost of their purchases.

Despite some very real and serious dangers, such as the threat of environmental degradation and workers’ rights abuses, there is a strong scent of positive change in the air. A 2018 report from global communications agency Cohn & Wolfe found that 87% of consumers believe it is important for brands to ‘act with integrity at all times’. Consumers placed integrity above innovation (72%) and product uniqueness (71%), an insight I find deeply interesting in itself.

The fact is that in 2018 people across the globe are more aware of the impact of their purchasing decisions than ever before. They believe the way they spend their money counts, and they are voting with their dollars. And what the market demands, the market gets. Many brands are setting aside the advertising and marketing greenwashing of the last two decades and responding with transparent, ethical practices, and we should feel very encouraged by this.

Let’s not underestimate the challenges we face for the future of the human race. But let's also be excited about the genuine shift in brand and consumer activity that is currently taking place.