Be For Change

Can mindful consumption and profitability go hand in hand?

Sustainable FutureAna CarneiroComment

Hi All! Lidia and Ana here, today we are writing about profitability and mindful consumption.

Encouraging mindful consumption while actively promoting a less throwaway culture and the reduction of non-sustainable consumption is a complex task. This is one of the challenges that sustainable and mindful businesses face, which leads us to the question: can a business be profitable even though it is promoting lower levels of consumption? 

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Why are we talking about mindful consumption and profit?

In today’s world of mass profits, corporate success tends to be measured against its profits. In many ways, we've been taught that the more profitable a business, the more successful it is - with very little regard to how larger profit margins are being achieved or even the quality of the final product.

This has led to the kind of unethical and wasteful practices which the world has begun opening its eyes to in the last few years - leading many people (ourselves included) to walk away from shopping from high-street brands, and turn to ethical businesses when we do need to shop for something.

From an environmental standpoint, everything we do has an impact, our mere existence and breathing has a toll on the planet - but mother Earth can cope with that. It's our man-made goods which are the real issue: from the built environment that houses us, to the products we make and ship from one place to the next, to the laptops and screens in which we type and you read...

At first glace, it might seem contradictory that business can be sustainable at all - especially when the production and shipment of physical goods enters the equation. However, very few of us are willing to stop consuming goods all-together and a large fraction of the world's population relies on our various industries for their livelihoods. Therefore the focus is not to completely destroy all industry, but to tackle the issues which make it unsustainable both for people and planet.

 

Let's tackle the first elephant in the room...

What does Mindful Consumption mean?

To be a mindful consumer is to make informed decisions and to choose quality over quantity. Businesses catering to mindful consumers are selling not only physical products but also ideas and stories, which are often tied in to their choice of ethical materials and production sites. In our particular case, our bags are made only of quality fabrics that would have been thrown away and produced in a small, ethical company in the North of Portugal - an area with a long-standing tradition in textiles and where power comes mostly from renewable sources.

What is more, quality products are often made to last and focus on timeless styles that never go out of fashion, defying the notion that one needs to shop often. On the reverse side, quality and timeless products don't need to be changed each new season, meaning that the pace of production can also be more mindful of the needs of people and planet.

 

Now that we have discussed whether it clashes with the businesses ethos, we turn to the second part of the question: 

Can an ethical business be profitable?

The answer is absolutely yes!

Let's take a step back for a moment...

If you look 100 or even 50 years back, many people were still mostly buying from traditional local commerce. Many small businesses thrived catering to the needs of their local costumers, selling to them mostly local and/or national goods. They were able to employ a few people and owners could afford a very comfortable living. I'm sure that many of those business owners weren't too preoccupied about their business plans, expansion plans or exit strategies. Instead, they were preoccupied about the quality of the services and goods they provided to their faithful customers. Good service and quality products encouraged what is known as the best publicity: word of mouth.

Doesn't that sound like ethical business? The only reason why we had to create a differentiation between different businesses is that at some point we started doing it in an unethical manner!

At some point post-industrial revolution, most customers became convinced by media and marketing that their lives would be better if they could have more and newer stuff - and the way to achieve so was to buy more and cheaper. Likewise, business owners were encouraged to expand their businesses so they could make more money and live more lavishly - and the way to do so was to buy more and cheaper. With many other innovations feeding into it (such as cheaper energy and cheaper production of plastic goods), we entered a time of unsustainable consumption.

Which leads us to the Present: a time in which we are being confronted with the consequences of our unsustainable choices, craving meaning and more balanced lifestyles that support our personal happiness and the well-being of others. We've started embracing self-care like never before and we feel bothered looking at the images of starving children and the faces of those being displaced by severe droughts in Africa.

Yet, not everyone is ready to embrace change and embrace a more mindful lifestyle - in fact, most large corporations are still fighting it and spending large portions of their revenue on marketing to keep people chasing after momentary happiness.

Despite all of these challenges, there is a growing number of ethical businesses caring for their customers by delivering not only quality services and products, but also a reason to feel good about each purchase. And many such businesses are profitable and growing, operating with complete transparency and showing the world that it is possible.

We honestly believe that as the norm begins to shift and more people adopt a mindset of mindful consumption, some of these businesses will replace the current large corporations in whom we've lost trust.

If you are wondering if mindful businesses can achieve the same level of profit that high-street retailers do, the answer remains yet to be seen, though with automation growing at the rate we've been experiencing, they may indeed achieve that kind of profit sooner than we think.

Regardless of that possibility, we believe that a new measure of corporate success should be created. A standard that encompasses how fairly all people involved in the business are being treated and paid, if a company's business is respectful of the natural resources that allow it to be in business and, ultimately, if it is adding value to the world or stripping it of it.

The challenge is therefore to create value without creating a negative environmental and/or social impact, and being able to convert that added value into financial profit (as we don't predict money to become useless or even unnecessary anytime soon...).

Of course, such a thing is more easily said than done, and we may never fully reach it. But we can certainly create a (literally) greener future while we are trying to offset our emissions in the meantime!

xx

 

Our opinion towards this subject might be naive or misinformed, being the young kids in the block, so we would love to hear your comments and feedback about this! Let us know in the comments, social media or email us at hello@be-for-change.com