Updated: Aug 11
According to a survey by Accenture, consumers are changing how they buy things and as a result the brands and businesses they value and trust to buy from have to do more to earn their devotion. The survey from 2019 stated that more than 80% of us are now looking for brands that embrace positive environment, sustainability and community policies that create “kinder” products and services that support The Kindness Economy.
SO, WHAT IS THE KINDNESS ECONOMY?
Conscious consumption is gaining momentum and it is changing the way companies do business. Consumers are insisting they know where, how and why products and services are created to understand their wider impact on the environment and society and as a result the need to be more transparent and honest has to be high on any business’s agenda if they hope to grow in the future.
We all know we feel great when someone does something kind for us. And when we do something kind for a family member, neighbour, work colleague or friend our body releases endorphins that help us feel positive and happy. So, the search for products and services that help us feel better about the way we buy and consume things is now a high priority for more of us than just digital savvy Millennials. Wellness is big business. From eating the right foods, using apps to help us exercise and using products we trust, all support a positive and happy lifestyle. The opportunity for businesses to tap into this kind lifestyle is enormous.
For a while now many of us have wanted to know how far a product has travelled, how it was produced and how much of the packaging is recyclable. From the food we eat to the clothes we wear and the things we buy for our homes. But we can sometimes find our good intentions are thwarted. How often have you searched for English apples at the supermarket and found them wrapped in plastic? Or bought products in recyclable cartons to find your local authority do not recycle the that type of packaging. Or bought products from your favourite fashion brand to find there are dubious sourcing practices involving children. I could go on.
There are lots of examples where companies are doing great things but not getting it all right. A great example of not getting it totally right is the recent story of Sten Gustaf Thulin, the man who invented the plastic shopping bag. His idea was to design a re-usable bag that would help to save trees and reduce the use of paper bags which was a big focus at the time. Clearly, something was lost in translation, because the supermarkets and retailers who gave out millions of these plastic bags never got behind the "re-usable" message the inventor had intended and which could have saved them money and raised their own "green" credentials. Now as a result of not getting it right the race is on to cut down more trees. A “bag for life” should have caught on the 1970’s, not recently!
EMBRACING POSITIVE & KIND POLICIES IN YOUR BUSINESS
The fast fashion craze of recent years has highlighted things as diverse as the increased levels of clothes going into landfill, exploitative child labour and the moral reasons surrounding the constant need for new stuff. Mary Portas, an advocate for "The Kindness Economy", thinks there is a consumer led backlash coming to the fast fashion sector in her piece in iNews. Perhaps if it happens it will have the same impact as 2018’s coffee cup recycling focus and last summer’s change from plastic straws to paper ones. And then there is the topical “plastic in the oceans” nightmare finally brought to everyone's attention by Sir David Attenborough, even though many other people had been shouting about it for years.
These days there are few places for companies to hide. Brands big and small are quickly mentioned on social media when they fail to live up to the high standards expected of them. It’s simply not acceptable in 2020 to just source and supply to your customers in an appropriate way. They expect businesses to embrace positive and "kind" practices in everything they do. And that can mean how they support employees with inclusive people strategies, how they manage their premises, whether their power source is "green" and how diverse their workforce is.
Big household names have done a great job providing products quickly, cheaply, and conveniently, like Amazon or Starbucks, but some have fallen foul of public opinion because of poor business ethics surrounding corporation tax, low pay or working practices. The hidden stuff behind the scenes of every business, large and small, is now very much front and centre and in the public eye, thanks to the power of social media, video and our 24-hour news culture beamed to our mobile devices.
Small and micro businesses are not exempt from this increased public focus. You may have a small, medium enterprise with just a few employees or even be a sole trader offering business services, however small your business, your customers will expect you to still embrace The Kindness Economy.
HOW CAN A SMALL BUSINESS MAKE BIG BUSINESS CHANGES?
If you are working on your own or in a business with 2 to 50 employees, you could be forgiven for asking how your business can be as “kind” as a large multi-national brand. And the answer is “the devil is in the detail”. You can start your own Kindness Economy journey by making manageable changes over time, with small steps looking at the cost and return, rather than jumping in feet first.
Here are some “small steps” that could help you get started:
Use providers with kind policies to help you create your own products and services
Meet clients for a coffee in places that have kind sourcing policies like Suffolk’s Paddy and Scotts
Use energy providers like Bulb that offer value and operate solid sustainability policies
Review your packaging for mail order. Is it recyclable and sustainably sourced? It may add a few pence to the cost but its something you can use to “sell” your sustainability credentials
If you buy products to sell look at how they are produced and sourced to ensure they are created responsibly. If you do not notice you can be sure your customers will
Supporting locally sourced materials will also help other local small businesses and reduce your products “miles”, something your customers will love
In a Citysprint survey in early 2020 more than half of all SME’s believe operating in a kinder, more sustainable way is important both for the future of their business and wider society in general. This year more than ever before, most of us can see the impact we are having on the environment and our communities. We are starting to understand why its importance to make the changes we all need to make that will help us embrace The Kindness Economy, both as consumers and business owners.
FURTHER READING ABOUT THE KINDNESS ECONOMY
Mary Portas - iNews article
Hannah Barczyk - Vogue article
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I'm Stephen Moore FCIM, a Strategic Marketing Consultant and part-time Marketing Director living in beautiful Suffolk. I support businesses large and small in Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and London. I have been writing about marketing developments for 20 years with articles in The Metro, City AM, Fresh Business Thinking, AllWork, The Marketer and Marketing Week.
Updated on 14th July 2020. First published Oct 2019.