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by Natalie Michel 3 min read

During these trying times, it’s important to take a moment and reflect on the positive things happening in the world. At first, it may seem like there isn’t much to celebrate, but the truth is good things are still happening. In fact, we have something big we’d like to celebrate. According to Harvard Business Review, there has been a distinct growth in sustainable shopping over the last ten years.

NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business completed a study in 2018 analyzing this increase, and they’ve since conducted research analyzing a second increase that took place in 2020 when the world was greatly impacted by COVID-19. Their research found that even during one of the most trying times of the 21st century, consumers were still actively choosing to shop sustainably. 

Despite the fact that sustainable products are often higher priced due to their natural ingredients or modified packaging, NYU found that sustainably-marketed products’ margins grew over seven times faster than conventional products. This means, despite the economic strain associated with the COVID-19 crisis, consumers were still willing to pay a higher price in exchange for their product being sustainable. 

NYU also found that the majority of consumers making the choice to shop sustainably were of the Millennial generation, but a surprising amount of Generation X and Baby Boomers also proved to be conscious consumers, too. The increase is undeniable, but some may wonder why.


Why are people shopping more sustainably?

The founding director of the NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business, Tensie Whelan, states: 

Consumers recognize that they can influence brands to ‘do the right thing,’ and in these days of COVID-19, #BlackLivesMatter and climate change, doing the right thing has never been more important. Purchasing of sustainable products is a trend with staying power.”

Whelan has extensive background working in sustainability as former President of the Rainforest Alliance. As a female leader in the international non-profit sector and now the NYU School of Business, Whelan has made an incredible impact herself towards sustainability, and she now continues her work through education and research. It is under Whelan’s guidance that NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business continues to study the further developing trends of sustainable shopping.

Harvard Business Review and many others agree with Whelan’s take that consumers are prioritizing sustainability and morality over money. Those who are financially able to pay more and choose a sustainable brand are doing so, leaving unsustainable businesses scrambling. It seems education efforts made by organizations like Rainforest Alliance, the Sierra Club, and countless others are beginning to pay off. 

 

The difference shopping sustainably makes.

Because of the pressure placed on them by conscious consumers, businesses are acting to make their products and practices more sustainable. In 2019, Forbes noted that there are over 600 companies with internal departments dedicated to developing and implementing sustainable business practices. 

The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) has also been working with large organizations to help educate them on how to implement eco-friendly energy practices into their businesses. The Coca-Cola Company is one of the large corporations partnering with WWF to help implement sustainable energy and eco-friendly materials into their business practices. McDonald’s has also shown great initiative with its large-scale wind and solar power projects, as well as Microsoft and Google who are both working to be more environmentally conscious about how they power their plants and services.

While it’s crucial large corporations and governments get onboard with fighting climate change, one of the best ways to ensure you as a consumer are shopping sustainably is toshop small. Small businesses often already have sustainable practices in place, and their waste per capita is significantly lower than even the most eco-friendly corporations. As you think about ways you can continue to be a conscious consumer, consider investing in small businesses and skilled artisans rather than faceless corporations. We can already see based on the research conducted within the last decade that many shoppers are making the decision to buy sustainably-marketed products, which is great, but in order to ensure the positive impact continues, consumers need to limit their corporate consumption.

At Clear Givings, we make it easy to support ethical small businesses dedicated to sustainable living. All of the vendors on our site utilize natural or renewable resources as well as fairtrade business practices. The planet is our priority, and while great strides have been made, the fight is far from over. There is still plenty of work to be done, and it’s our mission to honor Mother Earth in all that we do. 

What sustainable changes have you seen being made in your lifetime? What changes would you like to see in the future?

Natalie Michel
Natalie Michel


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