CASE STUDY – The growth of the conscious consumer

6 June 2017

Can what started out as a voluntary accreditation scheme among a handful of cafés become a household name?

What became Conscious Consumers started out on Wellington’s Cuba Street as the 42 Collective back in 2010. It soon expanded its café accreditation scheme to Auckland and Hamilton. It then secured funding from the Ministry for the Environment and local councils. This sparked a revamped brand and a smartphone app.

The basics are simple. Companies using Conscious Consumers are assessed to qualify for up to 19 different badges. They include things like vegan, eco-packaging, free range and more. Where possible the accreditations incorporate existing independent certifiers. These include Fairtrade, BioGro, Child Labor Free, carboNZero and Living Wage Aotearoa.

Shoppers register their payment cards to the Conscious Consumer app. This allows companies to see how much conscious cash has been directed their way. In return companies offer discounts and offers to Conscious Consumer shoppers.

This week Conscious Consumers is celebrating getting 10,000 Kiwis using the app at hundreds of signed up businesses all over the country. This has prompted the team to take stock and see what the future holds.

Anthony Cabraal, marketing manager said: “There’s definitely traction here and a lot of support. We are now looking at what the data says. What do the first 10,000 Kiwis think is most important and how can that change businesses?”

So far the initiative has supported 42 businesses to start recycling and composting, diverting an extra 300,000kg of waste from landfill. It has encouraged 25 businesses to donate food or money to those in need. It has prompted 35 businesses to offer incentives to customers using their own containers instead of disposables.

Recent months have seen some large organisations join the Conscious Consumer family. Many of the businesses involved are also Sustainable Business Network members. Meridian Energy is now a Principal Partner. Z Energy, Green Cabs, Green Time, smartass and Trade Aid are all signed up to the scheme.

Conscious Consumers is now looking at capitalisation options and exploring expansion into the UK.

“One of the challenges is that this can be quite a complex thing to get your head around,” says Anthony. “There are a few gears that have to turn in people’s minds. Communicating that in a really sharp effective way can be tough.

“But it makes so much sense. We live in a world where business measures and manages dollars first and foremost. If we can change that to integrate and measure what is important to people and planet, alongside dollars, then businesses will manage themselves differently.”

The team is confident that this is a movement that will continue to grow. Anthony says: “We will be a household name in New Zealand. We will get a lot more large organisations jumping on board. And we will see a lot more of Conscious Consumers about the place, with a lot more offers and organisations involved. I think there will be a big burst of energy in the UK. Then we will be starting to look to other markets and how the model might grow from there.”

To find out more about Conscious Consumers, click here.