Consumer Power. If you never start the car you don’t pollute.

One of the keys to understanding and getting involved in sustainability is to understand the power of the consumer. Let’s look at the basics in this briefing.

Back in the 80’s consumers would use their purchasing power to boycott products to make their voice heard. Nowadays, consumers are making an active choice, searching the web for “green” products, “fair trade” products etc.

If you think of any electronic device, (say, an MP3 player) full of electronic chips, you can envisage a whole supply chain starting with the sand for the chips, the iron ore for the metal parts, the trees for the packaging and oil for the plastics. A gigantic, global supply chain sends material and components back and forth to add value to these raw materials until they end up in the consumer shopping basket.

For every one kilo of product there are 30 kilos of waste going out. The costs for that waste are oftentimes neither borne by the producer nor concomitantly, the consumer.

If the consumer never takes the product off the shelf, no more will be made. If the consumer does not push the gas pedal, no oil will need to be refined.

The best place to focus on is consumer behaviour. True many factors affect it, by focusing on behaviour as a starting point you can better influence the functioning of these huge supply chains.

Two factors to note: local products and marks.

Local products reduce environmental impact by requiring much less transport, and often lees packaging. Local products are often better suited to the local market as well.

Marking of consumer products provides a guarantee that that they are organically grown, fairly traded, etc.

As consumer concern grows it is more and more important that companies provide transparency about their products, being open about their origin, content, manufacturing and transport, and the contribution of the product to sustainability.

AVBPs service “Adapting to the sustainable world” leads companies along a four dimensioned analysis of their offerings to find ways to climb the “experience” ladder.

To put it another way.. the world is a beautiful place to experience. Sharing this experience with customers is the ultimate way to create a stable future for your organization.

The steps of the experience ladder.

Step 1: Raw materials focus. No connection to region only the features of the materials. Example: “organically grown carrots”.

Step 2: Product focus on region. Example; “Carrots from the island of GOTOLAND”. Can be used to package “vegetable basket from GOTOLAND.” Emphasizes that buying these products supports development of sustainable farming in the region, so consumers contribute to that development.

Step 3: Services. Regions as a brand. Examples “ Vegetables from GOTOLAND supplied to your door”. Recipes from GOTOLAND.

Step 4: Experience. GOTOLAND as a place to visit, shop from, reside in and work in and with. Examples “invest in GOTOLAND, learn carrot recipes on GOTOLAND” etc.

Regions have the potential to create brands far stronger than any private enterprise. And together with the power of the consumer regions have the potential to create a sustainable way of life for their inhabitants.

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