Mainstreaming Conscious Consumerism

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Are we seeing the rise of conscious consumerism in the Philippines?

A recent poll conducted by Pulse Asia points to that direction. Based on the results, eight in every 10 Filipinos prefer brands that have environment-friendly products and operations.

Conducted from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1 last year, the survey commissioned by Stratbase ADR Institute — released during a forum on sustainable and strategic waste management co-organized with the Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST) — revealed interesting insights.

The poll showed that 83% of the respondents said they prefer to patronize products and services “of brands or enterprises that (they) believe have environment-friendly operations and products.” Only 5% said no, while the remaining 12% were evenly divided among those who do not care how the product is made and those who are not aware if the products or services they use are good or bad for the environment.

Preference for brands with environment-friendly products and operations was highest among those in the Visayas at 89%, followed by those in Mindanao at 88%, Metro Manila at 85%, and the rest of Luzon at 77%. Among socio-economic classes, it was highest among those in class E at 85%, followed by those in class D at 83%, and class ABC at 81%.

Interestingly, lack of awareness on how the products they use are made was recorded highest among class ABC at 13%, followed by those in class E at 9%, and class D at 5%.

This appears in the same track with the global adaption of conscious consumerism based on a report published by Fair Trade USA which recently released its new 2022 Consumer Insights Report: An Investment in Trust: Conscious Consumerism Goes Mainstream Despite Economic Headwinds. The report examines the continuing drive of today’s consumers in their ethical quest to purchase fair trade products.

Key findings from the report show conscious consumerism moving into the mainstream, with a wider range of consumers intentionally seeking Fair Trade Certified products and seeing this as one of the ways to most impact lives, communities, and the environment by purchasing with purpose.

“This new research shows a positive trend on the rise, as consumer awareness of fair-trade products increases,” said Paul Rice, Founder & CEO of Fair Trade USA. “Younger generations continue to lead the charge as they look toward their future, while bringing other generations along with them. They understand the difference that every purchase makes in the lives of workers, farmers, and fishers worldwide.”

Based on the report, younger generations continue to pay closer attention to the state of the planet and the practices behind the products they buy.

• 45% – Millennials pay 20% more for a Fair Trade Certified product

• 48% – Gen Zs say they would pay 20% more for a Fair Trade Certified product

• 20% – Millennials and Gen Zs bought Fair Trade Certified products in the past three months, double that of just three years ago

Over the past many years, further amplified during the lockdown era of the global pandemic that significantly forced humanity to examine values and beliefs, the concept of conscious consumption is gaining significant traction in mainstream culture. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the conscious consumer market, with consumers becoming more focused on sustainability and ethical business practices. A report by Accenture found that 60% of consumers are making more sustainable and ethical purchasing decisions since the pandemic began.

The term “conscious consumer” refers to individuals who make purchasing decisions based on their values and beliefs, such as environmental sustainability, social justice, and ethical labor practices.

The benefits of being a conscious consumer include reducing your individual impact on the environment and curbing your contribution to waste; putting pressure on brands that use unsavory business practices, so they change their ways; supporting communities or groups that have historically faced economic disadvantages due to structural inequities.

For brands, the benefit of appealing to conscious consumers is twofold: it typically means you are a socially responsible company and positively impact the environment or society, whether in the form of reducing your organization’s carbon footprint or donating profits to charitable causes, for example, and it often adds esteem to your brand, bolstering brand equity and differentiating your brand in the marketplace over time.

According to a report by Nielsen, the global market for sustainable products is projected to reach more than $200 billion in the 2020s. This growth is being driven by consumer demand for eco-friendly and socially responsible products. Nielsen also projects that the sustainable products market in the Philippines is expected to grow by 15% annually. This growth is being driven by consumer demand for eco-friendly and socially responsible products.

Sustainability has also become an important consideration for many Filipino consumers. In a survey by Kantar Philippines, 77% of Filipinos said they would pay more for products that are environmentally friendly, while 61% said they would pay more for products that are socially responsible. A global survey by Cone Communications found that 87% of consumers would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, while 76% would refuse to buy a product if they found out the company supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.

Social media is driving the global adoption of this phenomenon as it is playing a significant role in driving awareness about conscious consumerism. Platforms like Instagram and Twitter have become popular channels for brands and influencers to share information about sustainable products and ethical business practices. Transparency has also become an important factor for conscious consumers when making purchasing decisions. A study by Label Insight found that 94% of consumers are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency, while 73% are willing to pay more for products that are transparent about their ingredients and sourcing.

One of the key benefits of conscious consumption is that it can lead to positive social and environmental outcomes. By choosing to purchase products that are ethically produced, sustainably sourced, or support social justice causes, consumers can have a direct impact on the world around them. For example, buying products made with sustainable materials can help to reduce carbon emissions and minimize environmental damage. Supporting brands that prioritize fair labor practices can help to promote workers’ rights and prevent exploitation.

Moreover, conscious consumption can promote a sense of personal responsibility and agency among consumers. It allows individuals to align their values and beliefs with their purchasing decisions, empowering them to make a positive impact on the world. Conscious consumers often feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment knowing that they are making a difference, however small, through their consumer choices.

As evident from the Pulse Asia poll, conscious consumerism is also a growing trend in the Philippines, with more and more Filipinos becoming aware of the impact of their purchasing decisions on the environment and society.

Because the country faces a range of environmental challenges, including deforestation, air pollution, and plastic waste, environmental sustainability is of primary importance to Filipinos. As a result, many conscious consumers appear to focus on reducing their carbon footprint, supporting sustainable agriculture, and reducing waste. Another issue that conscious consumers in the Philippines are concerned with is social justice. The country is characterized by deep income inequality, with many Filipinos living in poverty and experiencing social injustice. Conscious consumers are working towards promoting fair labor practices, supporting local communities, and advocating for the rights of marginalized groups.

There are many organizations in the Philippines that are working towards promoting conscious consumerism. These include non-profit organizations, advocacy groups, and social enterprises.

One example is the Philippine Social Enterprise Network (PhilSEN), which is a network of social enterprises that are working towards creating social and environmental impact. PhilSEN is focused on promoting ethical and sustainable business practices and has played a key role in raising awareness about conscious consumerism in the Philippines.

Another example is the Zero Waste Philippines movement, which is a community-led movement that is focused on reducing waste and promoting sustainable living. The movement is composed of individuals, organizations, and communities that are working towards reducing plastic waste, promoting composting, and advocating for policies that support waste reduction.

In addition to advocacy and community-led initiatives, the government of the Philippines has also taken steps to promote conscious consumerism. In 2019, the government passed the Republic Act No. 11367, or the “National Integrated Waste Management Act,” which aims to reduce waste generation and promote the sustainable management of waste. The law includes provisions for waste reduction, recycling, and composting, and requires businesses and households to comply with waste management regulations.

Despite the progress that has been made, there are still many challenges facing conscious consumerism in the Philippines. Indeed, conscious consumption is not without its limitations.

One of the primary criticisms of conscious consumerism is that it places the burden of responsibility on individuals rather than on corporations and governments. While individual consumers can make a difference through their purchasing decisions, the real power lies with corporations and governments which can create systemic change. By focusing solely on individual behavior, conscious consumerism can divert attention away from the need for structural change.

Additionally, conscious consumption can be financially inaccessible to many individuals. Products that are ethically produced, sustainably sourced, or support social justice causes are often more expensive than their non-conscious counterparts. This can create a barrier to entry for lower-income consumers, who may not have the financial resources to consistently make conscious purchasing decisions.

Another challenge is the lack of availability of sustainable, ethical, and socially responsible products in the market. Many Filipinos may want to make conscious purchasing decisions but may not have access to products that meet their values and beliefs. There is a need for more businesses to adopt sustainable and ethical practices, and for more products to be made available in the market.

Another limitation of conscious consumerism is that it can lead to “greenwashing” and “woke-washing.” These are marketing tactics used by companies to make their products appear more sustainable, ethical, or socially responsible than they are. Companies may use misleading or vague language to suggest that their products are environmentally friendly or support social justice causes when they do not. Conscious consumers must be wary of these tactics and take the time to research the products they purchase to ensure they align with their values.

Despite challenges, the adoption of conscious consumerism in the Philippines is a positive way forward that should be embraced by all — both the consumers and the brands. The dream of having a sustainable future can only be achieved through conscious efforts to work together.

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