conscious consumerism ethics

Conscious Consumerism: How to Build a Business with Ethics (and Why it Matters)

If you’re building a new business to last, it is extremely important that you focus on your company’s ethics from the very beginning. Why is it so important for entrepreneurs to focus on company ethics and transparency? There is a growing segment of active and informed consumers who vote with their wallet, who will only spend money with businesses whose ethics are in-line with their own. We call these individuals conscious consumers.

Nearly 75% of global consumers say they would change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment. Additionally, 60% of consumers report that they’ve started making more environmentally friendly, sustainable and ethical purchases since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Conscious consumers want to know what goes on behind the scenes. They want to know how companies treat their staff and where they source the materials for their products. Basically, they are interested in how ethical and sustainable your business practices are, across all aspects of your company. Conscious consumers don’t expect perfection; they understand that businesses are run by people and that people can make mistakes. When businesses make mistakes, conscious consumers are forgiving if leaders are honest and upfront and try to rectify any wrong-doing.

Related: WJR Business Beat with Jeff Sloan: Impact on Brands Taking Positions on Social Issues

Here are some ways that you can incorporate ethics, both in terms of people and the environment, into your business right from the beginning:

  1. Take the time to think about what your personal values are. These can then be translated into your company values. These will be used to make any decisions moving forward in your business and they will also be used to develop interview questions when you are hiring employees.
  2. Before you sign any contracts with suppliers or other service providers, research their company values to ensure they align with your own. You can also develop a checklist of “must-haves” in terms of ethics and sustainability for companies that you wish to align yourself with.
  3. Make the triple bottom line, people, planet and profit, a focus of your business. This means that while developing strategies to increase your profits, you are also implementing strategies in which your business can contribute meaningfully to the greater good of the world. It’s not about just passively donating money to look good, but rather, consider your impact on people and the planet just as important as the value of your profits.
  4. Just like regular quality assurance measures, have systems in place to monitor and ensure that every aspect of your business continues to run in line with your ethics. As your business grows and you are less hands-on in all areas, you will need these systems in place to ensure nothing is out of balance in terms of your triple bottom line. This includes things such as continuously reviewing the types of companies you collaborate with (do your values line up?), the suppliers you use (have they changed the way they do business?), the culture of your company and your overall environmental impact (i.e. packaging and waste disposal).
  5. Be transparent about your business practices. Share as much information as possible with your customers on your website and throughout your social media channels about how your company operates, including all of the points mentioned above. Keep consumers informed, and as your business grows, and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask your customers for advice on areas in which they think you could improve.

Key takeaways

Most importantly, keep yourself informed, never stop learning and don’t become complacent and think you are doing “enough.” This is a continuous and evolving process, so stay attuned to what matters most to your target demographic. It’s never been a more exciting time to be an entrepreneur, and it’s also the time to take conscious consumerism seriously from the start.

Originally published April 21, 2021.

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