Are You Conscious Enough?

Posted: October 3, 2012 in Brand management
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Whether it’s when buying clothes, food or cosmetics, shoppers are learning a cool new buzzword, says Jasmine Gardner…

Surely, you are conscious if you are reading this. However, here we are talking about buying “conscious”, eating “conscious”, dressing “conscious”. In the worlds of fashion, food and cosmetics, conscious means far more than just aware and responsive. More specifically, it means that you are ethically and environmentally aware. It is the new way for brands to show they have a social and environmental conscience.

For example, H&M launched its 2012 Conscious Clothing collection – an eco-friendly fashion line made using organic cotton and recycled polyester, with styles that have already been worn by celebrities including actresses Michelle Williams, Kristin Davis and Amanda Seyfried. The famous brand has decided that “Conscious” will be the name it gives to all of its work on creating a future of sustainable fashion.

“Sustainability is very much about being provident with the Earth’s resources and recognising how people and the environment are affected by our operations. Hence the name ‘Conscious’ is a natural choice,” says an H&M spokesperson. Of course, just recognising is not enough to be truly “conscious” in that you need to know about the impact of your actions and accordingly buy the good stuff.

“We offer our customers a permanent range of various ‘conscious products’ with added sustainability value,” says H&M. “Clearly labelled, we make better choice accessible and affordable to all our customers.”

H&M is not the only one at it. The icecream maker, Ben & Jerry’s prides itself on its environmentally and financially sustainable values. Moreover, a few months ago it launched a competition to find new organisations in the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands that are creating new models for sustainable business. At the same time, in the US it is taking part in a project called the Campus Consciousness Tour – a circuit around American universities encouraging students to take action for the environment.

In the cosmetics industry, Kiehl’s, which produces luxury skincare products in recycled and recyclable packaging views itself as a conscious company at the core. “The Mission of Kiehl’s is a tribute to our belief in giving back, in supporting both the local communities in which we serve and the global community in which we live and thrive,” says its UK general manager, Victoria Campbell. As a result, it supports charitable organisations in Aids research, environmental conservation and supports children and communities.

“The words ‘ethical’ and ‘eco’ have gone out of fashion”

But if what all these companies mean is that they are ethical, environmentally friendly or sustainable, why do they choose “conscious” instead of just saying so?

“There are a couple of factors at play,” says Camilla Grey at branding consultancy Moving Brands. “First, we’ve moved into a new phase where being ethical and eco is integrated into our lives – it is embedded into our psyche. As a result, people now see themselves ‘conscious’. Secondly, [the words] ‘ethical’ and ‘eco’ have gone out of fashion. They imply a certain aesthetic – ‘knitted muesli’ as Mary Portas used to describe it. No matter how hard brands tried, they never could shake off that image. ‘Conscious’ gives them a bit more room to break free from all the white, green and hessian weave.”

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