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Generation Green: How Big Businesses Are Adapting to Eco-Conscious Consumer Demand

Aug. 7, 2020Conscious consumers are winning the battle against big business in the best way possible — by proving there’s a demand for ethical business models.



As millennials take over the economy, they now make up the majority of the buying power in the United States. This demographic in particular seems to be more swayed by ethics and values than by price, a dramatic change in consumer buying habits of years past.

Research shows that more than six in 10 young consumers look at a company’s ethics and values before buying their products.

Ethical businesses are growing faster than anyone else in their industry.

NYU just discovered that of the growth in the consumer packaged goods industry, 50 percent of it from 2013 to 2018 came from products marketed as eco-friendly. Even more notable, these products grew 5.6 times faster than regular products across 90 percent of product categories.

Of course, some “ethical businesses” are just good at marketing and greenwashing. What’s unequivocally true is that consumers do care, and that these trends impact how companies do business.

Conscious Consumerism In Action: Four Big Businesses Who Have Been Forced By Consumer Demand to Pivot

#1 — Unilever is Buying Up Sustainable Brands

Notorious for having a hand in some of the least sustainable, most toxic foods and personal care products on the market, Unilever has gotten a bad rap with consumers over the years — and for plenty of really good reasons.

Unilever investing in ethical brands is a huge signal to the industry that this business model is working. Unilever now owns over 400 brands, including Pukka Herbs, Seventh Generation, Timotei, and Organics.

 
   

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#2 — Hellmann’s Mayo Uses Cage-Free Eggs Now

When vegan mayo first came out, it posed a real threat to egg farmers — so much so, in fact, that the American Egg Board was trying to put vegan mayo brand Just Mayo out of business. In the now public scandal, the USDA and American Egg Board launched a campaign to bankrupt the small vegan startup, and even joked about putting a ‘hit’ out on the founder.

Yikes.

But beyond being able to bankrupt the competition, mayo companies (and egg farmers) have been forced to adapt to ethical demand, and play the game by consumers’ rules.

While cage-free eggs are widely open to interpretation, Hellmann’s new stance on sustainably sourced ingredients and ethically produced eggs shows us one thing: even the big guys are having to evolve their practices.

 

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#3 — H&M Is the Second Largest Buyer of Organic Cotton

Fast-fashion has had a crippling impact on the planet. Its effects are felt throughout the entire supply chain, from farming, to textile production, to garment factories, and, ultimately, one of the largest sources of waste on the planet.

Read more: Why Organic Cotton Matters

As fast-fashion cleans up its act, large companies are taking note. Fashion giant H&M for example, now makes an affordable line of organic cotton apparel, has clothing recycling bins in many of its store locations, and is the world’s second largest buyer of organic cotton.

 

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#4 — WalMart Moves to Reduce Its Waste Footprint

Walmart has earned a notorious reputation for low wages, cheap mass-produced products, and an in-store experience that makes grocery shopping feel like the end of days.

However, there’s a massive market need for affordable superstores like Walmart, so the question remains: How can we adapt this need to be more sustainable?

To start, Walmart has pivoted their sourcing and distribution model to massively reduce waste. Their goal is to have 100% recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging for its private label brand by 2025.

 

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Big Brands Join the Zero Waste Movement With Loop

One of the most exciting zero-waste projects of the last few years has to be Terracycle, a platform built to find a way to recycle every type of waste imaginable.

But founder Tom Szaky has taken it a step further with another project called Loop. Now in beta testing in parts of the U.S., Loop has partnered with massive brands like Kroger and Walgreens to develop products ranging from ice cream to shampoo in reusable, zero-waste containers.

The products are delivered to your door, the empty containers are collected and cleaned, and consumers obtain refills as needed.

While the model is still in its early stages, as massive brands take a global interest in the project, it’s a promising look into a zero-waste grocery future.

 

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What powerful choices are you making this month? Share your favorite brands with us on social media and show the good guys some love! @AvocadoMattress

Destiny Hagest

By Destiny Hagest

 —  Destiny is a freelance writer with a background in sustainability and natural health. She lives in the mountains of central Montana with her husband and young son. When she's not writing or chasing her toddler, you can find her wandering the quiet wilderness in search of wild herbs and antler sheds.

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