Conscious Consumers

Change business behaviour through conscious spending.

Conscious ConsumersDo you care about the planet and want to make the world a better place? Do you only want to buy from businesses that are sustainable and ethical? Do you want to earn tangible rewards for it?

Let’s face it – businesses do their business with varying degrees of care around how they treat the environment, their community, and their employees. As a consumer, what can you do to support businesses that that behave well? Simple answer: Download the Conscious Consumers app (iPhone  or Android), find a business near you that aligns with your ethics, buy from them, collect loyalty rewards, and sleep better at night knowing that you’re helping make the world a better place.

In order to participate, businesses must be accredited – they can apply for badges such as Recycling, Composting, Fair trade, Generosity, and others, which all have specific, measurable accreditation standards. Businesses are audited on induction and every year to ensure that they’re complying with standards.

The benefits to consumers are clear: you can have confidence that the restaurants and cafes you frequent are ethical businesses, and earn loyalty rewards. Hospitality businesses use the Conscious Consumers data to attract new customers whose values are aligned to theirs, and find out more about their customers – what they care about, how much they spend, and how frequently they visit.

They have more than 300 businesses and 10,000 consumer users across New Zealand.

The previous version of the app required users to ‘check in’ at the businesses. The new version takes a feed directly from Paymark, and automagically credits your spending from those businesses as it sees your transactions come through. Their secret sauce is tokenising technology, which enables this to take place without your EFTPOS or credit card details being stored.

Melissa Keys and Ben Gleisner
Melissa Keys and Ben Gleisner

Conscious Consumers started as a paper directory back in 2008, when cofounders Ben Gleisner and Melissa Keys got together with a few of their friends from uni and started the 42collective. The book showcased Wellington businesses that were achieving sustainability metrics, and they received a grant of a $5,000 from Wellington City Council to promote it. They also ran local events to promote sustainability and local businesses that supported sustainability. Over the next few years they attracted funding from the Ministry for the Environment, the Ākina Foundation, and several other councils, and in 2012 they released their first app to help conscious consumers find restaurants and cafes, and collect loyalty points for trading with them.

… business will change if consumers demand it …

They’re making measurable change in the way hospitality business operates. According to Ben, they’ve supported over 50 businesses to start recycling and composting – that’s the equivalent of more than 1,000 households. Their theory of change is that businesses will change if consumers demand it. Up until now, there hasn’t been a way for customers to easily recognise and reward specific business behaviours that matter to them, but now businesses can tie increased revenue back to specific behaviours on their part. It closes an important feedback loop that creates a virtual cycle improving the way we interact with the environment as businesses and consumers.

In May this year, they closed a $600K equity round from high-net-worth impact investors. The round was only open for a few weeks, and was quickly filled. With this investment, they plan to grow to 25,000 users by May 2017, multiply revenue by 4x, expand into other verticals such as food retail, clothing, homeware and hotels. They’re continuing to validate their product in New Zealand, but the next capital raise will be to enter one to three overseas markets, which will likely be done on a city-by-city basis. Post-raise, they’re just as agile and lean as they’ve always been. “It’s easy to burn money when you’ve got it, but we’re used to being incredibly frugal and we want to continue that” says Ben.

I was impressed with how quickly they were able to raise $600K as a social enterprise, but as they say, a professional is someone who makes a hard job look easy, and it only took them seven years to become an overnight success.

This week, they’re launching a major campaign including social media, engagement with their existing user base, working with their business customers as a channel, and large non-profits that are aligned to their values. You too can help make the world a better place by being conscious about your consumption.

Sign up and give it a go at: www.CountMeIn.nz

Conscious Consumers is also looking for B2B sales people – do contact them if you’re interested.

Disclosure: My wife, Kate Frykberg, is a member of the 42collective committee.