Updated: Jan 21
Recent years have seen a seismic change in the way people buy things and as a result the brands they value and trust have to do more to earn that devotion. Brands that embrace positive community, environment and sustainability policies are reaping the rewards of being part of the Kindness Economy.
SO WHAT IS THE KINDNESS ECONOMY?
Conscious consumption is gaining momentum and it's 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 businesses agenda if they hope to grow in the future.
Lets face it, when someone does something kind for us we feel great 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 app's to help us exercise and using products we trust, all support a positive and happy lifestyle. The opportunity for businesses to tap in to 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 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 don't 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 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.
CHANGES ARE AFOOT...
The fast fashion craze of recent years has highlighted things as diverse as the increased levels of clothes going in to 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 last year's coffee cup recycling focus and this summers change from plastic straws to paper ones, and the whole 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.
It's clear all these recent events are an indication that the public are keen to find and buy from businesses that quite literally live the principles of the Kindness Economy, which are simply to make people happy about what they buy and who they buy it from, so their impact on the world, the wider community and sustainability can be minimised or ideally a positive one.
These days there are few places for companies to hide. Brands are quickly mentioned on social media when they fail to live up to the high standards expected of them. Its simply not acceptable in 2019 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 in 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, providing an immediate window on the world.
HOW KIND IS YOUR BRAND?
Brand has always been about creating an all encompassing identity for your business that can really engage with your target customers and clients. But to be successful in the Kindness Economy its time to step-up a gear and make sure everything you do as a business is as good as it could be on every level.
For a while now we've all 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. 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 don't recycle the 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 recent example of not getting it totally right is the 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. Clearly, something was lost in translation because the supermarkets and retailers who gave out millions of these bags never got behind a "re-usable" message which could have saved them money and raised their own "green" credentials.
Making sure the entire brand story is joined up and thought through is now more vital than ever. Making a fast buck or two is all very well but businesses get found out if they make profits on the back of bad practices. Lets take a leaf out of Bulb's book. The green energy provider has certainly transformed peoples view of big bad energy companies. From service to sourcing, they've made the entire process transparent and as a result are reaping the rewards in the Kindness Economy.
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.