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Alain Giguère

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44% of Canadians are socially responsible consumers—an opportunity to develop an economic ecosystem with an ecological and social impact (and Wagner’s Götterdämmerung)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 07-03-17 at 2:33 p.m.

A consumer segmentation based on values, motivations and mentalities

Markets, like our society, are no longer homogeneous. Diversity is the order of the day. To better understand and adjust to this diversity, we construct "segmentations," classifications designed to distinguish between the different "types" of consumers and citizens with specific needs and expectations.

CROP is currently working on a new model to help us better understand people's changing needs, especially their consumer values. Even though we have not yet completed our analyses or drawn all our conclusions (watch for upcoming posts), we have already discovered something quite fascinating: more than two out of five Canadians (44%) make purchasing decisions based on ecological and socially responsible criteria.

Social responsibility as a purchasing criterion

These consumers want to deal with companies and brands that are good corporate citizens-whose production and supply chains respect the environment, their employees and the communities in which they operate. They expect these companies to invest in causes, contribute to more equitable wealth distribution and encourage responsible and sustainable consumption.

For these consumers, a brand's promise of social responsibility is as important as its functional properties and price. There are even consumers who tell us that they are willing to pay more for products and services designed and distributed in an environmentally and socially responsible way (25%).

In our classification, the first two segments, The Concerned about Social Responsibility (17%) and The Zealous Consumers (27%) are truly passionate about ethical and sustainable products. The former (women, people 55+, and residents of small towns and non-metropolitan regions) are motivated by a marked concern about the ecological, environmental and social issues facing the world. The latter (young people under 45, higher-than-average income earners, and urban dwellers) are very enthusiastic about consumption, especially ethical and sustainable innovation.

The impact economy

Hence, there is a very large market for social responsibility, one that brands can no longer ignore. We can also postulate that the more initiatives brands and companies take in this regard, the more consumers will demand them.

What's more, the mission statements and business models of an increasing number of companies indicate a clear intention to have a measurable social and/or environmental impact. Such companies are not content merely to add a sustainable element to their offer; they have made it central to their mission. We are witnessing the emergence of companies and consumer segments that are aware of their impact on the world. At best, they hope to transform it; at the very least, "repair" it! In fact, these companies supply much of the demand by the 44% of Canadians who want to consume in a socially responsible way. An economy of ecological and social impact-an "impact economy"-is emerging and striving to leverage its growth.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that more and more companies are moving forward in this area, not all of them have optimum visibility (apart from the biggest national brands). Their supply and distribution chains are also not optimized. There is therefore a real opportunity to improve the efficiency of this market, which could have a ripple effect on the rest of the economy.

An ecosystem, a bank, a cryptocurrency: a model worth emulating!

Several daring and visionary projects are underway around the world to optimize and leverage the growth of this impact economy. The mission of some new banks in Amsterdam (Triodos Bank), Germany (GLS Bank), San Francisco (Beneficial State Bank) and Italy (Banca Etica) is to provide financing to impact companies by putting the savings of their customers to work for a beneficial social impact.

But, to us, the most interesting project is the one that popped up in in Montreal a few months ago. The mission of Impak Finance, a catalyst for "impact projects," is to create a collaborative ecosystem in which consumers can discover the companies and organizations committed to solving social and/or environmental problems. The goal is to put mechanisms in place that optimize the collaboration among the citizens, companies and investors who strive to put human beings at the heart of their concerns. In short, an ecosystem with a financial institution, impak Finance, and its cryptocurrency, Impak Coin, acting as a catalyst for economic exchanges that will transform the marketplace with a transparent and collaborative approach.

A genuinely collaborative economic system is about to be born. Its goal is to restructure a marketplace whose players already exist, but whose exchanges could be greatly facilitated to ensure its growth. This system will improve the connection to the 44% of Canadians who want to consume in a socially responsible way for such companies as Renaissance, Lufa Farms, Alvéole, Jus Loop, TÉO Taxi in Montreal, RainGrid, Chef's Plate, Rowe Farms, Twenty One Toys in Toronto, and Built Green and Ballard Power elsewhere in Canada, which all offer products that respond to the needs and expectations of these consumers.

A new complementary monetary system based on the revolutionary "block chain" technology (Bitcoin was its first user) is emerging. It will emulate these collaborative exchanges while acting as a "value reservoir" and accountant for this new gauge of socially responsible wealth.

Pressure on "traditional" brands

Not all the ethical and sustainable brands, products and services will be part of this impact ecosystem or use Impak Coin for payment (Procter & Gamble's eco-friendly dish soap will continue to be sold in "traditional" grocery stores). But as the impact economy gains traction, the brands and companies outside this ecosystem will feel increasingly obliged to incorporate a "sustainable" component in their product mix.

Thus, this impact initiative, even in our capitalist, market-regulated business environment, could change the world or at least improve it.

Götterdämmerung (The Twilight of the Gods) by Richard Wagner

I began this series of blog posts by introducing Wagner's "cosmic" Ring Cycle and am concluding it (at summer break) with a clip from the last opera in the cycle-a fitting finale to this conversation about consumer social responsibility and the impact economy.

Wagner's "tetralogy" can be interpreted in many ways, but we can certainly postulate an ecological meaning. The gods have failed in their duty to protect life, the cosmos and nature, resulting in their loss. An inevitable apocalypse washes away this fallen world, giving way to renewal, free from the corruptions of the past.

Redemption, a recurring theme in Wagner's body of work, is the theme of this clip, known as "the redemption motif." It is the finale of the "Copenhagen Ring Cycle." At the end, we see a child, who symbolizes the new world about to be born.

The "impact economy" is surely a way to forge a better world, one that might save us from apocalypse!

RICHARD WAGNER: Götterdämmerung, “The Copenhagen Ring,” Royal Danish Opera, conducted by Michael Schønwandt. Production by Kasper Bech Holten, Int. Release 07 July, 2008.