During this season of giving, many of today’s more discerning consumers won’t be joining the masses scrambling to answer the siren call to stock up on discounted “stuff” — they’ll be remembering the values meant to be at the heart of this season, by taking REI’s advice to #OptOutside to enjoy nature and giving back by cleaning up; and when they do shop, they’re increasingly basing their loyalty and purchasing decisions on companies’ reputations rather than just product features and price.
For CorpSumers™, brand values are more important than good deals
New research shows a growing segment of the population plans to vote with their wallets this holiday shopping season, favoring brands with strong corporate values over getting the best deal. First identified by communications consultancy MWWPR in 2017, these “CorpSumers” base their loyalty and purchasing decisions on companies’ reputations rather than just product features and price.
MWWPR’s second annual CorpSumer study (October 2018) showed that 35 percent of the US population now identifies as CorpSumers — a rise of 2 percent in just one year—and that 8 in 10 are willing to pay more from brands that take a stand on policy and societal issues. MWWPR and Wakefield Research conducted a follow-up survey about holiday shopping plans to determine if CorpSumer values and behaviors carry over into the traditionally discount and deal-centered holiday shopping season. The results overwhelmingly indicated that brands’ shared values and stances on societal issues will be a litmus test for CorpSumers when they select holiday gifts; with more than 3 out of 4 (76 percent) indicating that they will select holiday gifts based on whether the brand or the retailer has values similar to their own.
“The results of this survey indicate a significant shift in the mindset of shoppers as they embark on the busiest shopping season of the year, with values and purpose eclipsing deals as a top priority,” said Carreen Winters, MWWPR’s Chairman of Reputation and Chief Strategy Officer. “While the general public is highly oriented around bargains during the holidays, CorpSumers, who represent more than one in three Americans, define value based on brand purpose — not dollars. CorpSumers have consistently demonstrated a willingness to pay more for brands that share their values, and this study shows that this behavior applies to their gift-giving, not just personal purchases. Whether shopping in stores on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, or online on Cyber Monday, CorpSumers will reward the brands that have authentically demonstrated their purpose this holiday season.”
MWWPR’s study also revealed that CorpSumers — a larger segment in the US than Moms or Millennials, that cross generations from Baby Boomers to Gen Z — place a high premium on employee wellbeing, citing “treatment of employees” as its number-one criteria for forming an opinion about a company. Not surprisingly, CorpSumers overwhelmingly indicate that they will reward companies who respect holidays and family as a priority, with 97 percent of CorpSumers indicating that they would be more interested in shopping with companies such as REI that are closed on holidays such as Thanksgiving Day (or those such as Patagonia and Everlane, which donate their Black Friday profits) over those who open with great deals.
Green America offers top 4 reasons to avoid big-box, online retailers
In keeping with CorpSumers’ requirement that companies live their values, Green America — a nonprofit membership organization based in the US that promotes ethical consumerism — has outlined four reasons why US consumers should avoid big box stores and massive online retailers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The four reasons detail the biggest human rights and environmental problems facing some of America’s favorite household products and the companies that produce them:
- Waste: It’s not wasteful to buy things that we need — warm winter boots, a new computer when yours can’t be repaired, toys and books for growing kids. What’s wasteful is buying way more than what we need or can use. Presents that end up in the trash next year or fall apart after a few uses just aren’t worth it. One aspect of voting with your dollar is choosing not to spend when you don’t need to, or considering gifts of experience — such as dinner at a favorite restaurant, a concert; or gift certificates for services you can give, such as baking or babysitting.
- Dirty energy and materials: Amazon, the world’s second-largest company, is still largely run on fossil fuels. There’s also the climate impact of materials in the goods we buy — such as plastics, cobalt and conflict minerals for our electronics, and all sorts of textiles that cause deforestation and other negative impacts. When you can, buy local products made from sustainable materials — or electronics from companies such as Apple and Fairphone that are working to reduce their products’ climate impact.
- Sweatshop labor and worker abuses: From fashion to phones, most items sold on Amazon or in big box stores and department stores are made by people in factories across the globe who are paid far less than what their labor is worth. Even in the US, retail workers make far less than the cost of living, and retail and warehouse jobs around the holiday season can be punishing to the point of being dangerous. What’s worse, an estimated 152 million children are victims of child labor, making anything from rugs to chocolate.
- Toxic chemicals: Conventional clothing, furniture, cosmetics and tech gadgets often have toxic chemical ingredients or finishes that provide stain-, water-, fire-, or wrinkle-proofing, or make the manufacturing process easier, and have been linked to health effects such as hormone disruption and cancer. The effects of these toxins are the most serious for workers in factories or opening boxes in retail stores (read more in Green America’s Detox Your Closet issue).
“This year, Green America encourages you to skip shopping on Black Friday,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America. “When it comes to Black Friday and the issues with major retailers, we’re not buying it and neither should you. Instead, consider supporting certified ‘green’ businesses in your neighborhood or online.”
Green America has created a guide — GreenPages.org — to finding certified “green” businesses locally and online that are an alternative to traditional Black Friday/Cyber Monday retailers. The featured businesses have earned Green America's Green Business Certification to ensure they are dedicated to building an economy that works for people and the planet.
United by Blue counters with ‘Blue Friday,’ a sustainable Black Friday alternative
Meanwhile, for the third year in a row, United By Blue (UBB), the sustainable outdoor apparel and lifestyle brand that removes a pound of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways for every product sold, urges consumers to completely eschew the traditional rush to procure more “stuff” the day after Thanksgiving and participate in a Blue Friday DIY cleanup. The third annual Blue Friday encourages friends, family and community members to spend an hour of their time outside picking up trash and join the Bluemovement community.
“Blue Friday was started to encourage and empower people to host a cleanup on their own — all it takes is a pair of gloves, a trash and recycling bag, and a bit of planning,” says Kelly Offner, United by Blue’s Head of Cleanups.
Beginning this year, UBB will be collecting and sharing data from the Blue Friday initiative with the science community — including cleanup location, quantities of various plastic items collected (including straws, bags, bottles and cutlery), and the most common items found.
“After collecting feedback from partner organizations and scientists working on marine debris research, we believe it’s important to monitor specific data points from all Blue Friday cleanups,” Offner says. “That data will be shared with the science community, United by Blue customers, our volunteers and our partners to shed light on the volume of plastic entering waterways, and to hopefully inform future ocean=protection policies and consumer packaging laws.”
UBB pulled its first pound of trash in 2010, the week it sold its first t-shirt. Since then, the company has pulled 1,456,264 lbs of trash across 250 company-organized and -hosted cleanups spanning 48 states.
Learn more about Blue Friday and how to get involved, and get a physical Blue Friday kit (includes a pair of gloves, two large bags [one for recycling, one for trash], and an exclusive, enamel waves pin) online at unitedbyblue.com/bluefriday. Physical kits ($5 shipped) and digital kits (free) include a data collection card and how-to guide and are available online at unitedbyblue.com/bfkit and in UBB’s retail locations in Philadelphia and Manhattan. Blue Friday participants have until November 30th to submit their collected data.