Evidence for the New “Conscious Consumer”

Use of the term conscious – as applied to business – only emerged in mainstream thinking shortly before the recession got underway. Business leaders like Anita Roddick (The Body Shop) and writer-thinkers such as Paul Hawken, author of Natural Capitalism paved the way for the the new values-based approach to business. Subsequently, books such as Patricia Aburdene’s  Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism and Fred Kofman’sConscious Business: How to Build Value Through Your Values have been cited as influential in the business community.

During the same period there has been a substantial shift  in the approach to Corporate Social Responsibility. Companies initially applied CSR as an optional extra – adding philanthropic projects to demonstrate a degree of responsibility but not really examining and changing their fundamental approach to the utilisation of resources and people in pursuit of profit. As will be described elsewhere, the term CSR is fast disappearing as the business commnuity grapples with the notion that all commerce is about relationships between people and is inherently social in nature — see FutureLab’s short videohere.

The global economy is still slowly and hesitantly recovering from the greatest recession in 60 years. While causing mammoth unemployment, depleting public treasuries and necessitating huge cuts in public services, the recession has also provided a “punctuation point” along history’s time line. For adults under 40, it introduced the notion of risk and uncertainty for the first time in their working lives. For boomers it has reactivated dormant memories of depression and deprivation as told by their parents.

The following quote from an Ogilvy & Mather’s study, appropriately titled: Eyes Wide Open, Wallets Half Shut, best summarises the characteristic of many post-recessionary consumers that we have described as “conscious”.

It is an undeniable fact. The recession has created not only a universal sense of anxiety and fear but a greater level of consciousness across all ages and genders. We can’t go back. We have heightened our perception; we are awake, alert and aware – whether we like it or not.

Numerous major research sources, all undertaken independently of one another, some global, others national, show support for the emergence of a more mindful consumer.  Readers can follow the links below to a variety of sources. While only one specifically applies the adjective “conscious” to the so-called New (albeit American) Consumer, they all describe how a more considered, deliberate, cautious approach to consumption is being practiced that is unlikely to change even if their were a dramatic upturn in the economy.

Research into “Cultural Creatives” by Paul Ray & Sherry Anderson

LOHAS Studies – Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability


The Futures Company & Yankelovich

The Conscious Consumer Report, 2009. BBMG

Young & Rubicon

Ogilvy & Mather

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