How conscious consumerism is forcing brands to go green

With consumers becoming more environmentally aware, brands are now looking to build eco-friendly alternatives to stay relevant
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In 2015, the member nations of the United Nations made a resolution to adopt Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as a ‘universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030’. India’s tryst with sustainability, though, dates back to when the Constitution was drafted with a focus on social and economic justice and affirmative action for the environment.

However, economic liberalisation in the 1990s resulted in greater disposable incomes, a steep rise in consumerism and a use-and-throw culture, which today has left landfills packed with plastic, e-waste, chemical residue and non-biodegradable clothing

And while our economy is growing, it’s increasingly evident that it cannot be business as usual. With conversations around climate change and reckless consumerism taking centrestage, the change we need has to begin on our dressing tables, in our kitchen cupboards, and our wardrobes.

Increased awareness 

The good news is that the Indian consumer is more aware than ever about the impact his purchasing decisions have on the environment.  A survey commissioned by the Mahindra Group in 2019 showed that a staggering 80 percent of Indians were aware of the ecological impact of their actions, and 83 percent said that they would be willing to make ‘greener’ lifestyle changes. Over 70 percent said that they were informed of environmental issues. 

The survey showed that 88 percent cited lack of affordable alternatives as the reason for not shifting, while 89 percent said that they would change if the companies provided more eco-friendly alternatives. One of the key takeaways of the survey was not a lack of awareness, but a lack of alternatives. According to a global survey by Bain and Co., nine out of 10 people were willing to make the switch if they had an affordable eco-friendly option.

The green scene

The good news is that FMCG companies in India have realised this and are bringing out a range of affordable eco-friendly alternatives to products we use everyday. Many are also initiating recycling drives and trying to become plastic-positive (where a company recycles more plastic than it uses). And it is not just personal care. Consumers are also increasingly looking for household products that do not contain harsh chemicals that are associated with causing health problems, in addition to harming the environment.

Unilever has been one of the larger companies to hop onto this bandwagon and capitalise on this trend, only to reap rewards as a result. In 2019, the company launched Love Beauty and Planet – an eco-conscious brand that’s vegan-friendly and uses bottles made from recycled plastics – in India. Swiss FMCG brand Nestle also announced that its popular brands like Maggi and KitKat will be plastic neutral by the end of 2019. 

With words like fair trade, ethically sourced, vegan, not tested on animals, recycled, etc. becoming commonplace and customers actively looking for products that they feel will have minimal impact on the environment, brands are investing in greener products.

But for many consumers, the most difficult thing about living sustainably is knowing where to start. What should I be looking for? Where will I find eco-friendly products? What changes do I need to make? Just do a little investigative work. The Indian market has plenty of eco-friendly alternatives for every aspect of life, and to suit all budgets. And if those bunny labels and Tidyman icons are a bit confusing, our handy guide should clear up a lot of things.  

After that, it’s up to each one of us to save, reuse, recycle and upcycle.

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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