One of the most defining aspects of our globalized economy, is the fact that the vast majority of consumers have little to no connection with the origins of end places of the consumer items that they purchase. This relative anonymity to consumption has contributed to the unethical business practices that characterize many corporations.
When you don´t have any sort of contact with the woman in a Bangladesh sweatshop who is sewing your underwear, the child laborer in South America who is cutting the cocoa beans for your chocolate bar, or the community in Africa affected by the mining of rare metals that make your smart phone work, it´s easy to fool yourself into believing that consuming these items occurs in the vacuum of something we call the “economy” where ethics simply don´t play into the equation.
While many corporations continue to expect a relative consumer ignorance as a path towards greater profits, many people around the world are beginning to demand products that are ethically produced. From fair trade coffee, to direct consumer-producer relationships at farmer´s markets, there are several ways in which the conscientious consumer is helping to bring about vital changes in how our global economy works, and who it works for.
Below we will briefly look at a few different ways in which consumers are pushing for a more ethical economy and offer some ideas about how businesses can reshape their business plans and models to respond to growing consumer demands for ethical business practices.
The local food economy is perhaps one of the most exciting developments in recent years for people looking to revitalize Main Street, local economies. As health concerns began to arise over the healthfulness of the industrial food diet and the safety of foodstuffs laced with excessive amounts of agrochemicals, hormones, and other food additives, many consumers began looking for fresh, natural, food alternatives.
Relationships began between small, local farmers and their surrounding communities leading to an explosion of farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, and several other institutions that allowed farmers a premium local market while also offering consumers a healthy alternative for their meals.
The local food economy, however, is just one aspect of a growing trend in strengthening local economies. Michael Shuman states that “the basic requirement for local prosperity both here and abroad is an entrepreneurial community, a locale rooted in small businesses producing a diversity of competitive goods and services for local needs.”
More and more people are willing to spend a little bit more money for consumer items produced locally. Not only is the quality of locally produced products often superior to the mass production of our global economic system, but these consumers want to develop meaningful relationships with people who produce the consumer items they need and depend on.
Furthermore, the conscientious consumer who wants both healthy and ethically produced consumer items is beginning to doubt the “supply lines” of the global economy, even when those supply lines are supposedly “green” or “sustainable.” A recent article on the Green Investment Bank in the UK shows how many consumers are skeptical of the global economy, even when power plants are trying to move away from coal towards renewable energy sources. Simply put, the distances inherent in how the global economy works raise suspicion to the ethical consumer.
The Wal-Mart mantra of “everyday low prices” at whatever cost is no longer the driving motive for many consumers who want their consumption to be both ethical and consequential in the process of building coherent communities. For businesses looking for new markets niches, instead of looking to expanding into emerging markets on the other side of the world, it might be a better idea to look towards the business district in your own small town.
The B Corporation
While the conscientious consumer certainly can go to the farmers market for most of the food and even support a local seamstress trying to start her own clothing company, it is slightly more difficult to find local options for other consumer items. However, the demand for ethically produced consumer goods transcends local markets as well.
The B Corporation Certification is a label that many conscientious consumers look for when making purchasing decisions. The B Corp Certification is a private certification issued to for-profit companies by B Lab, a global non-profit organization with offices around the world. The rigorous certification process is founded on the triple bottom line of social sustainability and environmental performance standards, accountability standards, and public transparency standards.
While this certification process is offered to for-profit companies and corporations, it is yet another clear indicator that many consumers around the world demand that companies operate for more than just the bottom line of profit.
Business Plans to Capture the Conscientious Consumer
One of the main obstacles that many business owners find when faced with the demands of the conscientious consumer is the simple fact that most business owners don’t have experience in local markets or in including the triple bottom line in their business plans. People who study business management or finance in university, will most likely have little to no practical experience with these issues as most business education is still focused on preparing people to operate in the anonymity of the global marketplace.
Finding quality business plan writers is one strategy that many business are using to help them discover ways to operate ethically. Whether you want to acquire a business plan that will allow you to take advantage of the growing local niche market in your region or incorporate environmental and public accountability controls in your business practices in order to become certified as a B Corporation, getting help with your business plan is essential.
Business plan writers will be able to help you and your company develop strategies to market to the conscientious consumer. Companies such as OGS Capital that offer ample experience in non-profit business plans will understand the social aspect of business to help your company find a path towards more sustainable and ethical business practices.