The way in which consumers are supporting companies today is shifting. And that’s because trust in big corporations is eroding and social media leads the talk in reputation. Consumers are becoming more inclined to support businesses that support more than just their profit margins.
What makes a company worth supporting?
In recent years, brands have been told that in order to make a profit, you have to not only do good, but be good. Cue ‘brand purpose’. Purpose has been dubbed the 21st century key to success. But what gives a brand purpose? A brand just saying that they’re good? A brand doing good? Or an emulsification of the two in one big pot where brand purpose meets bottom line?
It’s a little bit more complex than that. You first have to ask: why are consumers more inclined to support ethically and sustainably run businesses?
It might be because of the impending doomsday that we are all pleading with Earth to postpone – which is no joke. But we’re guessing it’s also a moral standpoint – it’s much easier to love a brand that loves the things around it. It’s become vital to companies to not only SHOW that they do good, but to actually, inherently make sure their business practices are ethical.
Take Vélosophy, they are the only bicycle brand in the world that follows the notion of ‘get one give one’ made famous by Nicholas Negroponte’s 1995 launch of the non-profit One Laptop Per Child. For every Vélosophy bicycle sold, another gets donated to a schoolgirl in a developing country, improving her results by up to 60% just because she made it to class more often.
The ‘get one give one’ is a famous strategy that has been employed by many start-ups to have social impact meet profit. Even if a company isn’t built on the foundation of social impact, they can still drive change out of their scope.
Any company with enough brain power, budget and bravery, can undertake projects that result in the ‘good’ we speak of. On top of their ‘get one give one’ business model, Vélosophy were recently involved in an initiative to get more Nespresso pods recycled. Nespresso have been under fire for a while now concerning claims that their coffee pods are awful for the environment. Vélosophy partnered with Nespresso to create RE:CYCLE – a bicycle made out of 300 Nespresso pods that had been canned for recycling.
“By using recycled capsules to make beautiful bicycles, Vélosophy brings sustainability and style together to create a truly meaningful experience, bringing to life the importance of recycling.” – Jean-Marc Duvoisin, CEO of Nespresso.
What's happening on the local front you ask?
We’re seeing more and more sustainable grocers pop up, an increasing number of Instagram profiles being created to promote ethically made products and services, and a noticeable shift in our culture to support them.
In a study done by the Unisa Centre for Corporate Citizenship and the Bureau of Market Research, it indicated that more than half of our country’s metropolitan consumer’s purchasing decision is influenced by a company’s corporate reputation. In addition, 47% said to prefer and even pay more for products and services that come from good corporate citizens. Take The Refillery and The Joinery, they are both sourcing products made ethically and selling them for the greater good of the people who make the products, and the people who consume them.
Where can I find these local treasures?
Besides our friend Google who might send you on a wild goose chase, Ernest North and Shane Durrant started a podcast, The Naked Economy on Cliff Central. A podcast to tell you about the inspiring, visionary individuals who are proud of how things are being done behind the scenes in their respective professional fields.
As one of the founders of Naked Insurance and additionally with an actuarial background, Ernest has gained a deep understanding of how companies work – especially since he’s seen the other side of it. He’s the guy who can spot the difference between a company that’s set up to appear ethical, versus whether it’s the real deal. We shouldn’t all have to be business buffs to know who to support!
Shane Durrant, yep, the lead singer of Desmond and the Tutus but also founder of many small, successful businesses is the man on the other side of the mic (a different kind of mic this time). As you can imagine, this podcast is pretty cool but also serves a purpose. The Naked Economy allows you to learn about small businesses on the local scene but also how to look at them more critically. You might even begin to think on ways to improve your own workplace.
Where corporate and SMME understanding meet, The Naked Economy is bound to give you some insight into the big bad (not always bad – just for dramatic effect) world of businesses just trying to do their thing. A thing that’s not only good for its own people but good for the consumer and the world around it. Go on, give it a listen.
There are a lot of positives to all that’s happening. But let’s not forget that supporting companies like the above shouldn’t be an act of charity – they need to perform in the same league as other businesses when it comes to innovation and tech.
An interesting problem facing new companies is how to use this new tech while still feeling “real” and “personal” to customers.
For example, in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Player Piano” where almost all jobs had been replaced by machines, the corporate superpowers were scratching their heads as to why people refused to visit the pubs manned by hyper-efficient robots and chose rather to frequent the traditional, human-operated ones. The trick here is not to fall into the trap of thinking that more tech = better. An example of this balance would be a hairdresser allowing you to book an appointment online, but making sure that you can select the hairdresser that you’ve built a relationship with. It’s important to realise that while minimising the amount of time it takes to book an appointment is a good idea, turning the actual haircut into a conveyor belt, in-and-out experience is not.
What's your take?
We each play our part every single day and we all have the opportunity to shape the economy into something that’s good. Be it through supporting a coffee shop, or even talking to your boss about changing how things are done at your own workplace.
Bottom line (pun intended), it’s exciting and something to look forward to – businesses are doing it! Do any come to mind from your experience? If so, we’d love you to tell us about them on our Facebook page!