Conscious Consumerism Myth – Where Is the Future of Sustainability Marketing?

I never believe the fact that sustainability is a natural, inherent consideration when customer makes their daily purchase decisions. It often comes as an after fact justification. This course has reaffirmed my thought that in order for green to be “the choice” for most consumers, the situation has to be made very restrictive and defined for this to happen. Great must come first, and green may be then added into the decision-making formula. Phillip Haid digested the myth of conscious consumerism via Sustainable Brands, where he identified the discrepancy between people’s normative and positive thinking and actions.

Throughout of the course, we encountered countless data, indicating that sustainability has become a new trend in the society. Jennifer Elks claimed that Millennial will drive sustainable purchasing trends (as mentioned in my January Archive Journal),  and Nielsen’s Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility, stated that 55% of global online purchasers are willing to pay premium to companies  whose corporate responsibility is geared towards some charitable and supportive mission that is not purely monetary driven. Nevertheless, where are the real changes? If this many claim that they will be committed and dedicated, why is green purchasing still situating at a niche market? Sustainability may not be unfamiliar to the corporate and business world, because there is inherent cost reduction and efficiency enhancement associated with such initatives. Therefore, it makes strategic sense for any company to make the shift, because it achieves desired result. Nevertheless, to the general consumers (not the “true blue-green type”), green initiative still remains dispensable. In other words, they are indifferent towards green products and regular prototype. The only situation that I envision that the green product is favoured, is that the green alternative has a brand image and market reputation to be of higher quality accompanied with equal price or with slight, insignificant adjustment for premium. In short, unless our thinking can be “prep-programmed”, revolutionized, or consciously adjusted for when making purchasing decisions, we may have to reply on business and government to make every possible choice on the shelf green to be green purchasers.

Another myth tackled by Haid relates to motive. This one challenges the impossibility of co-existence of economic drive and social drive of a company, which mainly results from cynicism and distrust from purchasers. It would be overly extreme to claim that business functions with money and money only.  I feel that this type of thought is fading in the society, which puts us as a transitioning stage between pure awareness to taking actions. There is a long way to go, but it is trending positive. Hopefully there could be a day where changes can be accelerated. As the results become observable, the process can be further quickened, forming a virtuous cycle of development.

ch8se (choose): “Transforming” Apparel into Trees, Meals, and Water



It is not rare to see companies strategically sacrifice part of their profit to support social missions such as sustainability and charities. Nevertheless, it is rare to see a retail company driven purely by social mission who donates 100% of its sales revenue to three different organizations that converts money into essential support. This is the story of ch8se, who launched their campaign on indiegogo and gained traction and attraction through social media platform like Instagram.


The initiative is similar to what we have observed with TOM’s shoes. Nevertheless, ch8se’s decision appears to provide more practical support to these countries in comparison to shoes. Directly equating apparels purchased to number of trees, number of meals, and amount of clean water is certainly not a new marketing strategy; however, its undeniable effectiveness by establishing a comparison further increases its influence. What is unique here, is that in order to provide a more direct and transparent record of achievement, the company created an “impact code” for each item purchased, where consumers may directly enter the code to view the change that they have brought to people. This individualized approach further inflates the efficiency of its business foundation, and further incentivises the customer to become returning purchasers.

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The design of the male and female are identical in patterns and styles, and they are classified as “simple basics” – items available in very wardrobe. In terms of the design and cut, cho8se does not seem to have an advantage, because of the limited varieties available within the product category. I personally feel that their clothes are mediocrely high-end. While the raw material exhibits quality, it does not create a sense of need for the customers, to own such piece of clothes, because a less expensive prototype or similar twin could be easily found in other stores. This may look like an over consideration, because ch8se‘s primary objective is not to become a designer stores, but a social support business. However, I still feel that the reason that people will chose to purchase such apparel will be to support social cause, rather than being driven by a desire of want and need. To me, this sounds opportunistic, and it even diminishes the effectiveness of the campaign. I tend to view that sustainability and social support should come after one’s preference, rather than acting as the primary reason of purchase, and force customers to then make a decision within the boundaries of sustainability.

Another question in consideration, is regarding the long term development of the company. ch8se is committed to do something well. Nevertheless, it appears to act more like a successful campaign rather than a social business. Sooner or later, the company will be forced to update their stock and design, because most of the people who have the money and heart to support the campaign will already made their purchase. Therefore, with long term considerations in mind, there is some planning needed to ensure the continuous success of the company.


Impact Investors and Impact Investing: Solving Problems and Feeling Accomplished

“Impact investing is the process of aligning the assets one has allocated to achieving a financial return with values and to measure and respond to the data of both performance and alignment over time,”

                                         –Chris Hale, founder and CEO of microtrade finance firm kountable


Up until this point, I still hold the general impression that sustainability something that is out the minds of investors when it comes to choosing stocks. My financial background has taught me that the investors, regardless of their asset level, will strive to maintain and increase its numerical value. Despite of the heat and debates that we hear in the academic and business community, we are still waiting for a for-profit organization (preferably multi-national giants) that places sustainability before profit.

A new concept, Impact Investing, aims to marry the profitability and the dedication towards social good. Coined by Chris Hale, the guidelines for such an investor add an additional criterion to the existing rick-and-return trade-off portfolios. Investors dedicate their money and decide to earn an income by solving problem XYZ. Alternatively speaking, this elevates the level of decision-making from simple profit to meaningful impact.  The investor is expected to align the investment with their person values and objectively evaluate the return. Naturally, we would be concerned about the feasibility to quantify the various externalities that influence the stock performance. When environment and resource is added into the formula, the mechanic model not only increases in complexity, but also increases in difficulty to gain updated and adequate level of data to retain the statistical significance of the analysis. The data problem is evident, as admitted by Hale, and they are still in a process of formulating a systematic way to simplify the decision-making process.

I personally found the notion to be unique; however, I feel that the definition provided could be further improved to reduce ambiguities. Investment is always a choice, and Impact Investment is not an exception. Although Hale emphasised that Impact Investment will not compromise the financial prospect of a portfolio, this seems to contain some inherent uncertainties. Theoretically speaking, the emergence of companies is directly relevant to the needs of the general public, which could be referred to as opportunities or potential problems. For example, the computers and appliances that we purchases often contain an “ENERGY STAR” certification, denoting a reduction in power and resources consumed. It could be safely claimed that every established company, regardless of the scale and industry, are deemed to solve problem X, problem Y or problem Z. This really challenges the claim of solving problems. What should be the important problem by Hale’s definition? Are there further criteria that help investors to identify companies that are truly dedicated, rather than coating their business in green? There are still some explorations needed with the questions raised above, as the concept evolve and mature though practice.


Image retrieved from Google, and the image about World Problem is founds from:

(the only two countries that contains such plot is Australia and New Zealand. it is chosen for pure graphical representation purposes)