Why the future of business is in the hands of ethical consumers


Business ethics is becoming increasingly important to consumers, young and old. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Business ethics is becoming increasingly important to consumers, young and old. That is why in recent years phrases such as ‘people and the planet above profits’ have become prominent.

Now more than ever, consumers are using their consumption choices to express their underlying moral values.

Ethical consumerism is not a movement any company can afford to ignore if they have future aspirations.

Ethical consumerism is the idea that one’s consumption has an impact on the world, so one wants that impact to align with their values.

Such consumers want to understand the footprint of the products or services they consume — how they were made, who was involved, how they got to them, and how the product will be disposed of.

Today’s consumer is more tuned to what is happening around them and wants to help address the pressing human issues of the day without contributing further to their spread.

For example, the average millennial grew up worrying about climate change and we are now well past the question of whether it is happening.

Because of this, such a consumer wants to know what role the business they are buying from is playing in environmental sustainability.

A survey by IBM’s Institute for Business Value showed that traceability was important to 71 percent of respondents worldwide and they were willing to pay a premium for a brand that provided it.

This means that more consumers care about the production chain from the origin of raw materials to the finished product.

Additionally, 57 percent of consumers were willing to change their shopping habits to help minimise social or environmental damage.

Another recent survey by management consultants McKinsey and Company in South Africa found the influence of Gen Z and Millennials is rapidly expanding.

For instance, 70 percent of Gen Z consumers say they actively try to support companies they consider ethical, and 65 percent try to learn the origins of anything they buy: where it was made, what it is made from, how it is made, and by whom.

Kenya’s Gen-Z and millennial consumers are not far off.

As a growing number of Kenyan consumers increasingly show concern about how ethically and sustainably the goods they purchase and consume are made, those companies that do not align accordingly run the risk of losing their market share.