The conscious consumer — part one

As the modern consumer increasingly searches for companies, brands and investments with strong purpose-driven practices, it is now more important than ever for organisations to consider and adapt — where necessary — their position on social, environmental and political factors.

With expectations at an all-time high, the ability for leaders at the Board and Executive level to tune in and respond to the changing demands of the conscious consumer is vital. Companies must decide whether they will become agents of change themselves and lead with their moral compasses, or let the market dictate their position on people, profit and the planet.

Either way, how organisations choose to strategically communicate and position themselves in today’s conscious consumer market — where authenticity and alignment to personal values earn cut-through — is critical.

In Rowland’s first webinar of 2022, our expert panel discussed how organisations are communicating their position on ESG among internal and external audiences, as well as how they plan for and anticipate the issues and pressures of doing business in a rapidly transforming conscious consumer-led market.

  • Many companies are placing ESG at the core of their brands: organisations need to meet the needs, desires and aspirations of stakeholders to be a sustainable business in the conscious consumer landscape.
  • We are in the golden era of conscious consumerism: these consumers are complex, sophisticated, multi-dimensional and have a clear voice.
  • Changes to a company’s priorities cannot be surface level: organisations must be able to demonstrate advancements in tangible ways. Organisations that are not viewed as genuine, will face difficulty.
  • Communicating your position is complex: paying attention to what’s important to your stakeholders is key, so focus on delivering clear information on performance.

Facilitated by Rowland’s Executive Director, Helen Besly, our panel included:

  • Anita Dorwald, Former COO, Lorna Jane and City Beach
  • Andrew Sellick, Principal Sustainability,Global Infrastructure, QIC
  • Tonianne Dwyer, Non-Executive Director, Dexus
  • Jennifer Ramsey, Executive Client Director, Rowland

To watch the full video, please see below.

If you don’t have time to view the video in full, here’s a snapshot of the key takeaways from each of our panellists on their insights into the conscious consumer and how companies are placing ESG at the core of their brands:

Anita: The retail industry is very responsive and adaptive to consumer desires for conscious practices, with many companies placing ESG at the core of their brand. The goal is to meet consumers where they are and manage trends as they happen, such as the remediation of fast fashion.

As the consumer has shifted, the business landscape has become a minefield in which all brands must take a position and execute change well. The reality is, we’re coming back to purpose-driven organisations that can demonstrate advancements in tangible ways and there’s no room for surface level changes — this dialogue needs to start internally, with the right level of support, advice and advocacy. Consumers, especially the younger generation demanding these changes, can sense tokenism or ‘green-washing’ so organisations that are not viewed as genuine will face difficulty.

Andrew: The focus on ESG and conscious consumerism for QIC is driven from within as their approach to buying and committing to sustainable investments is core to who they are.

Businesses that are brought into their portfolio of multi-decade, long-term investments, must fit into QIC’s vision and outcome for the future and the goal is to understand how business will, or already are, coping and positively contributing to the changing landscape.

Tonianne: The core of all organisations is to exist in the context of society, community and market. To have a sustainable business model, organisations need to meet the needs, desires and aspirations of stakeholders, or the ability of the company to thrive in the long-term will be out of reach. What creates ‘great’ in organisations? Creating value for all stakeholders.

Jennifer: We are in the golden era of conscious consumerism and these conscious consumers are complex, sophisticated, multi-dimensional and have a clear voice, which is catching some organisations by surprise. They are concerned about not only the environment, but also social arrangements, science, health effects, provinces of products and the future, and this is clear in research showing the decline of trust in the government.

Consumers will make it clear when they are unhappy and share these opinions through social media and other communication platforms. The ability to adapt and make changes to your company’s ESG priorities is vital, however, these changes cannot be surface level.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this article where we take a deeper dive into how organisations can demonstrate advancements in ESG in tangible ways, and where organisations should be focusing their attention when it comes to the conscious consumer.