Conscious Consumers sustainably tackles retail

Conscious Consumers helps customers find businesses that align with their ethics and values. In turn, businesses can collect information about what is important to their customers, and, hopefully, learn from it.

Participating businesses must be accredited and can apply for badges which all have specific measurable standards. Such badges include Recycling, Composting, Fair Trade, Generosity and more. 

Conscious Consumers was born nearly six yeas ago out of a small charity, 42collective. The charity launched a voluntary café accreditation programme with a handful of cafes in Wellington, before expanding to Auckland and Hamilton.

Chief executive and founder Ben Gleisner launched Conscious Consumers initially as a hospitality accreditation app in 2013 but always planned to expand to include retail.

His goal was to collect insights for businesses about what is important to their customer base – whether that be decent wages, how they handle waste management or how ethically and sustainably they run their business.

“The idea was that as consumers we found it hard to find businesses that were doing genuinely good stuff. The motivation was around but people have to work for it too.

“Being more ethical and sustainable does improve your business and we wanted evidence that shows them [business-owners] that consumers do spend more money when they see positive processes in a business.”

A crowdfunding campaign in 2015 was a rousing success for Conscious Consumers. The nearly $100,000 raised facilitated the addition of world-first software to the app, which helped it expand to incorporate not just hospitality businesses, but retail too.

Since the campaign, Conscious Consumers has partnered with Paymark to streamline processes. No longer do users need to manually ‘check in’ with a business, the new app now automatically credits their spending from a business as it see the transactions going through. A debit or Eftpos card has to be registered, but none of the account details are stored.

Since the re-launch about 15,000 people have started the process of registration. Of those, nearly 7000 have added the values that are important to them to their profile and 3000 have added their card details. The plan is to accommodate at least 50,000 users.

Retailers are getting on board too – big names such as Kathmandu, New World and Burger Wisconsin have all registered with Conscious Consumers.

Gleisner says the quick progress is exciting.

“The businesses are joining because they want to position themselves as a brand that cares about what their customers care about. It’s an easy way to start the journey towards becoming more sustainable and ethical.”

While price, quality and service have always been hallmarks of good business in the hospitality and retail industries, there is now a growing need to make sure all aspects of a business are ethical, he says.

“Consumers are getting frustrated about it being hard to find businesses that match their values – and even when they are super motivated there is just not enough choice.

“Our platform aims to make it easier for consumers to locate ‘good’ retailers, as well as incentivise other products and brands to become more sustainable and ethical.

“The power is in our collective hands as consumers.”

As Conscious Consumers grows, Gleisner wants more and more big-name New Zealand brands to get on board. In 2017 the plan is to identify the leaders in each industry on the app and find out who is doing the best business.

The next step is taking it to the world.

“We want to show that it works here and then make it massive. It could be a platform you open each day, like Facebook, but to see what is happening in the retail world and make you feel more empowered.”

This story first appeared at The Register.