Conscious consumerism, where buying decisions are driven by having a positive socio-economic, environmental impact, is on the rise and it’s challenging traditional business models, writes Maeve Dorman, senior vice-president at PayPal.
PayPal’s Think Forward: Conscious Commerce report shows how over half (56%) of Europeans consider themselves conscious consumers and 67 per cent bought products that were better for the environment, despite a higher price tag. This trend resonates strongly in Ireland. Research found that Irish consumers were increasingly moving towards shopping online, with the top drivers cited as supporting local businesses (44%) and less environmental impact (24%).
A conscious consumer is someone who looks beyond the brand or the label. They want to know more about the company they are buying from, whether it drives positive impact in society, and if it has values that align with those of the consumer.
“The conscious consumer is aware of global issues like minimum wages in poorer countries, is concerned about fast fashion and its impact on landfills, and favours businesses that follow green practices because they value sustainability”
The conscious consumer is aware of the impact of where and how they shop, as well as the products they buy. Millennials are more socially conscious than any other group, however every age group rates sustainability and environmental factors as being important in their buying decisions.
The pandemic has helped cement these socially conscious behaviours as people are increasingly becoming aware of mindless consumption and seeking to minimise it. Irish brands and businesses must understand and adapt to meet these expectations, otherwise they will miss out on the opportunity to enhance the consumer experience, attract new customers, and – most importantly – build trust and loyalty.
Consume mindfully is the new mantra
Mindful consumption isn’t just about reducing plastic waste. The conscious consumer is aware of global issues like minimum wages in poorer countries, is concerned about fast fashion and its impact on landfills, and favours businesses that follow green practices because they value sustainability.
“Irish businesses should be proud of their sustainable practices and showcase them to customers”
They avoid ‘mindless consumption’ and seek out greener products with longevity, taking the extra time to check out where product ingredients come from and how they’re processed before clicking ‘buy’.
Brands and businesses with an interesting backstory, and companies affiliated with social justice and causes will capture their attention – whether that’s making a donation for each sale, supporting an environmental cause or helping an underserved community.
Irish businesses should be proud of their sustainable practices and showcase them to customers. This information should be available online, on social and marketing channels, and at every step in the purchase cycle. By doing so, brands can strengthen and expand their customer base, whilst reinforcing trust and credibility.
This is ever more crucial for Irish businesses, with 56 per cent of Irish consumers revealing they are more likely to purchase from a brand that shares their values. More tellingly, some 21 per cent stopped buying from a brand because it didn’t match their values2.
In terms of what builds trust in a brand among consumers in Ireland, while good service (69%) and product offering (40%) were the top two reasons, they were followed by ethical practices (38%) and sustainable operations (31%).
Being caring and authentic matters: How Irish businesses can evolve
There are many opportunities for Irish brands to meet the demands of the conscious consumer – from using raw materials and cutting back on packaging to producing greener products, donating a portion of their sales to community efforts and employees volunteering in their communities.
“There are a multitude of ways that Irish businesses can make an impact, and it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing”
Changing consumer habits is only one side of the coin. Real change will only come when all Irish businesses step up to the plate, but every action is a small step towards achieving a more sustainable future.
With this in mind, Irish businesses need to evaluate their vision, mission, operations, products, services, and even legal and vendor contracts, from start to finish. In order to create the most value, sustainability must be grounded in what consumers want and need. Businesses should lead, not follow. Rather than focusing on what consumers care about today, they need to dust off the crystal ball and ask: what will consumers care about in five years, or in the next ten?
We don’t have to dream up a utopia to imagine what will drive purchases in the not-too-distant future. It’s about bringing all the actions that businesses are taking now, together. Just look at trainers, for example. Today, people don’t just choose new trainers because of style, functionality and fit – they choose brands which make their products ethically and stand for something other than profit.
At PayPal, we live by these principles too. We recently released our 2021 Global Impact Report, our fifth annual report, that looks at how we create a positive impact among the global community and help to deliver a more inclusive, affordable, and efficient financial system for all. This includes driving economic empowerment in underserved communities with grants and investments, mitigating our impact on the planet with science-based targets to help us reach net-zero emissions, and empowering people – employees and customers – by investing in wellness and enabling generosity via donations and volunteering time.
There are a multitude of ways that Irish businesses can make an impact, and it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Every action, no matter how big or small, will be a step towards addressing the needs of the conscious consumer, whilst working towards a sustainable future.