Skip to main content

Executive Insights

Responsible Consumerism and its impact on your brand

Responsible Consumerism and its impact on your brand

Rampant consumption and production worldwide continue to deplete our natural environment and resources at an alarming rate.  Can brands truly strike a balance in promoting ethical consumerism while achieving triple bottom line at the same time?  Find out how brands can lead by changing consumers’ behaviour and patterns.

01:10:00 Min

Executive Speakers
Serina Tan, Founder & Managing Partner, Brewer Consulting 
Tay Kae Fong, MD, Binomial Consulting 
Kanan Packrisamy, Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board, Herbal Pharm Pte Ltd

Jade Ong, AVP, Trade Marketing and Communications, Mediacorp

Question & Answer

Shouldn't responsible and honest marketing be a prerequisite to responsible consumerism? People can assume they're responsible if a company markets them as such, but don't have the due diligence, time or effort, to dig further (and see whether it's a hoax). Wouldn't legislating companies to sell only responsible products be more efficient than educating consumers? Consumers can't be unethical if all products are already mandated to be ethical.

In an ideal world we can, (lack of a better word) police everything and get things to progress in the set direction. However, when dealing in a purely capital marketplace like Singapore or majority of the world, it’s hard to force consumers down a certain line. Notwithstanding this, the issue of legislating companies to only sell responsible products is not so simple – there are trade factors, resource availabilities or limitations, jobs of thousands of people and the like. Such forceful action may lead the economy of countries to slow down or cause other issues. By educating consumers and inspiring them to buy responsibly will force brands/companies to become more responsible themselves. They will start to provide responsible solutions through innovation, better procurement, production and operate more responsibly whereby ensuring the change we seek is in an organic manner without causing a disruption to the life we now live.

[Kae Fong]
Yes, I agree that marketing should always be responsible and honest. When it comes to products, it can get complex. There are many examples of products that are responsible in an area but not in others. For example, if you own a petrol car now, should you sell it and buy a new electric one? How would we calculate the long-term impact to the earth? Emissions is part of it, there’re also considerations with mining minerals for batteries, etc. This makes it hard to legislate because we will have differing views of what “responsible products” mean. In situations where science is clear, it’s easier for legislation to kick in. Of course, the government can also provide standards and certification as well. That said, legislation will always only be part of the solution. Think about things like anti-littering regulations – they’re there but it really depends on us doing the right thing. Consumer education and choices will be key in the long-term. 

With regards to Sustainability, where does policy or a tri-node relationship balance in ensuring business, consumer, and government behaviour, vis a vis media and responsibility to each other? How to create balance?

I cannot fully answer this, but in my view, if you run a business purely to make money and enrich yourself, I am sure Sustainability will be farthest from your mind unless its regulated or a marketing movement made it more profitable to do so. Therefore, businesses must first stand for something and build a profitable model around their beliefs, and this will lead to better sustainability inherent in everything they do. Sum of these efforts should deliver profits or insights to what needs to be tweaked or changed to continue to stay in business. 

[Kae Fong]
The key is that everyone sees themselves as playing a role and being critical to making a difference. The next step is to look at where each party makes the most impact and to focus on that. Regulations and policy can be very effective in certain areas like mandating end-of-life responsibility across an entire sector, e.g. e-waste, to get economy of scale. Businesses can play a strong awareness and education role, while consumers can speak strongly with their purchases and loyalty. 

What is the point of sustainability if consumers are mostly driven by price and utility? Can you market or incentivize sustainability not on the corporation level, but on the consumer level?

[Kae Fong]
It’s true that consumers are often driven by price and utility, but not everyone and not for everything. There is a growing segment that considers sustainability as part of their choices. To further increase the numbers, businesses can raise awareness about issues relevant to their sector, highlight how their sustainable products matter, and potentially offer incentives for recycling. Like with the previous answers, it takes a multi-stakeholder approach (government regulations, civil society, media, schools, etc.) to help people see the value and decide for themselves how they want to make a difference. 

The assumption that consumers are only driven by price and utility is relatively passe today. Whilst at some segments and with some products you can apply this, you cannot broad brush stroke this to everything. Consumers do find intrinsic value and feel empowered when they buy responsibly. Larger segments of consumers today do demand brands to be responsible and shun away from brands found to be irresponsible in their actions. The fact that almost all major brands in the world adopt a responsible consumerism policy in their sustainability initiatives exhibits the clear shift in what consumers want. Keeping the above in perspective, although initially it may cost more for brands to adopt responsible policies, in the long term as seen in companies such as ours, the financial benefits will be plain to see. We have never raised our prices in the name of all our efforts to become more sustainable and responsible. Therefore, consumers should not fret about this. They should be more loyal to brands who keep their prices but provide a more responsible solution.

To receive information on our upcoming Webinars, email