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Conscious Consumer Spending Could Be At A Tipping Point


Socially responsible spending by consumers is going through the roof. And charitable contributions and environmentally-friendly behavior are on the rise again, after recent declines.

That’s according to the latest Conscious Consumer Spending Index (CCSIndex) benchmarking study. Administered annually since 2013 by socially responsible marketing consultancy Good. Must. Grow., the index measures consumer appetite for spending, charitable giving, and environmentally aware practices. A sampling of the 1,021 respondents was provided by Dynata.

Over the past few years, the Index has fluctuated—a record low of 39 in 2020, a major increase to 51 the next year, and a dip to 48 in 2022. But this year’s score of 57 broke the bank and, according to Good.Must.Grow founder Heath Shackleford, that could indicate a breakthrough for socially responsible spending. “We’re much closer than we’ve ever been to a tipping point, where conscious consumerism is entering the mainstream,” he says.

The Index score is calculated by evaluating the importance consumers place on purchasing from socially responsible companies, actions taken to support such products and services, and intent to increase the amount they spend with responsible organizations.

Record Highs

Several results—all record highs—underscored consumers’ increasing embrace of conscious consumerism:

  • 71% felt it was important to support socially responsible brands.
  • 66% said they had bought such products and services over the past year.
  • 42% reported plans to spend more with socially responsible companies in 2024.

One possible factor contributing to growth is an increasing awareness of key terms in the world of socially responsible consumerism. As an example, Shackleford points to familiarity with the term B Corp, a designation for companies certified as following triple-bottom-line principles. About 26% of respondents were familiar with the term, up from 22% in 2022 and way up from 7% in 2013. Some 42% were aware of “social enterprise” vs. 30% in 2013.

Attitudes about the state of the world also played a part. Almost half (48%) of respondents said the world is getting worse compared to 36% in 2019. However, pessimism impacted socially responsible behaviors. Those who felt the world was getting better had a score of 73; those who said the opposite had a score of 48.

Increases in Related Behavior

Other related practices also trended upwards. For example, 86% reported being green compared to 81% a year ago. Support for charities, including financial contributions, donation of goods, and volunteering, was also up. At the same time, those results are down from previous highs.

The results also indicate that, over the long-term, the increase in socially responsible consumerism could be hurting charitable giving. While the percentage of consumers who have bought products and services from a socially responsible company rose from 62% in 2013 to 66% this year, the number of people making financial contributions to charity declined from 64% in 2013 to 55% in 2013.

“One of the dynamics we’ve watched closely since the inception of this Index is whether increases in conscious consumerism result in a positive or negative impact on financial donations to nonprofits,” says Shackleford. “It does appear that consumers view socially responsible spending as a form of giving back, and that might be influencing, to some extent, their approach to charitable contributions.”

The survey also included a poll asking consumers to name the company or organization they think of first when they think of socially responsible organizations. For the fifth straight year, Amazon
AMZN
topped the list. It was followed by Walmart
WMT
and Goodwill. (Worth noting: In 2020, when the survey asked for the most and least socially responsible organizations, Amazon and Walmart topped both lists). Social enterprise Bombas appeared for the first time, at number 11. TOMS was number 17, after missing the cut in 2022.

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