By Eban Goodstein
The elusive green consumer. For decades now, sustainability entrepreneurs have been trying to mine the vein of responsible consumption, with only limited success. Area businesses tout local wares, but consumers still shop at Amazon.
Poll’s show we all want to shop our values, but we seldom shell out much of a premium, and even pass over green products that are competitively priced.
NYC-based startup ethikus is pioneering a new approach to sustainable consumption. The underlying idea? Convert the shopping decision from a private act to a social one. The action? Create a city-wide movement in support of ethical and sustainable businesses in The Big Apple.
Last week, ethikus launched the “Shop Your Values Week” pledge campaign. From May 3rd to 10th, SYVW will connect New Yorkers to 200+ businesses in New York City selling sustainably produced, locally sourced, and community-supported products. To take part, consumers pledge to shop their values for the entire week, and are then directed to participating area businesses who offer discounts and promotions.
”SYV will make sustainable consumption top-of-mind for New Yorkers for a week,” says ethikus CEO Jeff Hittner. “We hope to ignite a movement that spurs further sustainable improvements by businesses and more opportunities for consumers to support them.”
Businesses can take part in the week by completing a survey about their business practices, which focuses questions on sourcing, employee care, environmental impact and community engagement. Businesses making strides in these areas are then asked to come up with a celebratory incentive for the week for customers that take the pledge. Some example incentives from businesses include:
- L’Artusi is offering a prix-fixe menu at its restaurant
- Dinosaur Hill, a toy store, is offering 10% off when customers sing a verse from their favorite song
- 4food is creating a “Shop Your Values Week” burger
- Think Coffee is offering a ‘secret incentive’ when customers inquire about their sourcing practices
- Green Fitness Studio is offering a weeklong, 40% off pass
Sharon Livesey, a Fordham Business School Professor, is one New Yorker who has pledged to shop her values. She says: “Buying from stores, restaurants, and providers who care about their employees, operate in environmentally responsible ways, and support local suppliers, allows me to participate in a virtuous circle of consumption and production. I get tangible proof that my actions can contribute to making my community more healthy and fair.”
Ethikus sees SYVW as a scalable solution to the problem of engaging our underlying desire to vote with our dollars. The company will also be spearheading a second city-wide SYVW event in NYC to channel “Black Friday” holiday shopping next November, and is also looking to export the model to other towns.
“We need to break down the key barriers to ethical consumption: lack of information, higher prices and complacency”, says Hittner. “We see Shop Your Values Week as a model to address all three. It makes it engaging, rewarding, and fun for both consumers and businesses”.
(A version of this article first appeared in TriplePundit.)