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Purchasing With Purpose: More Consumers Are Shopping With Their Values

Now more than ever, consumers are purchasing with the planet in mind. Here's how that's creating a brighter future.

Written by
Laura Wittig

In a world filled with quick fixes and instant gratification, it's never been easier to click "buy now" and receive an item on your doorstep almost immediately.

Although new innovations in technology have led us to solid improvements in the way we create and consume some products, the vast majority of new products are created under dubious supply chains from questionable materials with planned obsolescence in mind.

The solution to this problem of overconsumption is multifaceted, but now—more than ever—consumers are choosing to shop with their values in a variety of ways.

Participation in the Circular Economy

One step is to reduce our purchasing of new items. Resources like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other online swap-enabling companies make it simple to connect with others selling gently-used items they no longer need.

Heading to the thrift store before walking into a fast-fashion retailer is now seen as a cool thing to do (who doesn't want to be seen as keeping up with the times?) and coming up with creative outfits based on your current (not future) wardrobe is a challenge many are accepting.

As Smaller Brands Lead the Way, Consumers Reward Them

According to McKinsey, one out of four consumers globally says they're planning to focus more on environmental issues and will pay more attention to social aspects in their shopping behavior.

And in a 2021 study by iStock, almost a quarter of Americans claimed to have shopped with smaller companies and brands over larger corporations as a way to show their commitment to the environment and sustainability initiatives.

Consumers are looking to brands like Nisolo, Avocado Mattress, and Dropps as leaders in the fashion, home, and cleaning spaces who continually prioritize ethical supply chains and ingredients that aren't harmful to the planet.

Prioritizing Eco-Friendly Purchases at Big Box Stores

When shopping local isn't an option, it's important to make sure larger companies know that consumers will prioritize more eco-friendly items when picking from an assortment on a shelf.

The same study by iStock mentions that more than half of American consumers (55%) say they only buy from brands that make an effort to be eco-friendly. This number rises significantly to 72% for Millennials, with Gen Z at 64% and Gen X at 53%.

Big-box chains like Target, ALDI, and more have started to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by implementing programs that focus on the reduction of plastic packaging and bags, in-store recycling, and new sustainable products.

Greening Finances to Better Align with Values

Purchasing with purpose doesn't just involve the companies and brands you support. It also involves taking a closer look at the financial institutions you're making those purchases through.

Greening your financial assets can greatly reduce your carbon footprint, as most banks choose to invest their money in fossil-fuel-powered industries. That's why companies like Aspiration, a digital banking alternative, are taking off.

Aspiration's many initiatives—including fossil-fuel-free deposits and investing, planting a tree with every purchase, and automatic offsets built into your debit or credit card—have allowed its seven million members to spend and save in a way that aligns with their values.

"Money has a powerful impact, and whether you know it or not, the decisions you make every day on how to spend and save your dollars can either help fuel or help fight the climate crisis," says Andrei Cherny, CEO of Aspiration. "We’re creating the new category of Sustainability as a Service with the aim to empower our members to build climate change-fighting action into what they do every day in ways that make it easy, automated, engaging, and yet still enormously powerful."

While Cherny says Aspiration worked to pioneer taking a sustainability focus in finance and bringing it to people’s daily spending and savings, it's still just the beginning.

"Today, we’re seeing a growing number of companies and organizations extending this effort through important work in areas such as sustainable investing, similar to our own Aspiration Redwood Fund, by helping to democratize that process, or with others financing climate solutions themselves," he says.

Eco-Confusion Leads to Reliance on Community and Expert-Driven Resources

Defining the term "sustainable product" and finding labels to fit that definition can be tricky—over 500 eco and sustainable labels exist today across 199 countries.

Many consumers find that shopping for products that are better for the planet is challenging and confusing, so they increasingly turn to the sustainable influencer community and trusted, expert-driven platforms like Brightly to help offload the eco-research component. But that's a good sign.

This means many consumers are open-minded and ready to learn ways they can do better. Brightly alone is a platform that reaches millions, and our community is growing each day. Now, more than ever, we're seeing consumers stepping up to make a change—and those small changes are making a global difference.

The Aspiration Spend & Save Accounts are cash management accounts offered through Aspiration Financial, LLC ("AF"), a registered broker-dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. The Aspiration Zero MasterCard is issued by Beneficial State Bank, member FDIC and offered through Aspiration Card Services, LLC ("ACS"). AF and ACS are subsidiaries of Aspiration Partners, Inc. ("Aspiration"). Neither Aspiration nor any of its subsidiaries are a bank and are unaffiliated with any other named entity.