Nirmal has been thinking about fungi, food and wellness for over a decade, so he bought a farm land with Redwoods “just for fun.” At the time, his day job was CMO at Clickatell, a global technology leader and innovator in mobile messaging and commerce. At Clickatell, he helped build revenues from $50M to over $100M, led the team that launched the game-changing Chat Commerce platform—and coined the term itself—that’s rapidly changing the way we interact with the brands on mobile phones.
But always in the back of this foodie’s mind, was fungi and how he could completely upend it’s visibility and elevate it to its rightful place in the world of fantastic-tasting healthy eating. In 2020, he founded Sempera to do just that. From his initial training as a mechanical engineer to software to digital video to mobile to food and nutrition; Nirmal has built his career paving new paths. He’s got big plans on the horizon for Sempera.
With a pandemic, natural disasters, as well as global food insecurity hallmarking the beginning of the 2020s, there are plenty of questions as to how we can all make this decade and the ones to follow better for everyone. One way we can each play a part is with our everyday consumption choices. Consumers realize this more than ever and are becoming increasingly proactive in their product and lifestyle choices based on an elevated and deeper consciousness.
A “Conscious Consumer” makes purchasing decisions that have positive social, economic, and environmental impacts. They vote with their dollar by buying ethical products and avoiding unethical companies. They will think whether consumption is necessary, and if they decide to buy, look at who is providing the product and how the product affects each environment touched in its creation and delivery.
According to a report by branding and marketing agency BBMG, nearly nine in 10 Americans say that the words “Conscious Consumer” describes them “well.” If products are of equal quality and price, a high percentage of consumers are willing to purchase products that are: energy efficient (90%), promote health and safety benefits (88%), support fair labor and trade practices (87%) and commit to environmentally friendly practices (87%).
However, while many naturally label themselves as “Conscious Consumers,” the degree to which this is practiced daily varies widely.
The BBMG data describe consumer attitudes when goods are of equal quality and price. However, many consumers know that the cheapest price is not always the fair price. Workers who make an item may not have been paid fair living wages, or they may toil in unhealthy conditions. Waste disposal, water pollution, and other environmental concerns may have been sacrificed to bring the cheapest possible price. Consumers are becoming more conscious of this imbalance.
According to the Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility report published in 2015, three out of four Millennials and 51% of Boomers (aged 50-64 at the time) said they were willing to pay more for sustainable products.
One of the criticisms of statistics such as “90% of Americans identify themselves as a Conscious Consumer” is that it runs the danger of becoming a “superficial Band-Aid,” perhaps assuaging some guilt while not really tackling the root causes or systemic problems. It may be a gesture or a virtue signal that is essentially taking sporadic or minimal actions that make very little real difference.
Sustainable lifestyle blogger Alden Wicker writes in his Quartz article: “On its face, conscious consumerism is a morally righteous, bold movement. But it’s actually taking away our power as citizens. It drains our bank accounts and our political will, diverts our attention away from the true powerbrokers, and focuses our energy instead on petty corporate scandals and fights over the moral superiority of vegans.”
Several concrete examples Wicker provides to illustrate this viewpoint include:
Even the seemingly straightforward choice of how one saves and invests his or her money has deep implications for society and the environment. Wall Street has its origins in trading slaves, and despite all the progress made in the past few centuries, there still remain formidable walls erected by current capital structures that perpetuate racial, gender, and other injustices. Banks leverage and multiply every dollar saved with them through loans, and some will then use this multiplied money to, for example, fund industries that are detrimental to the long-term interests of society. A “Conscious Investor” will therefore scrutinize the impact of where his or her money is saved, and how it is invested.
This is a simple summary of what is obviously a very deep topic that merits much further discussion. In future articles, we will look at how some of these ideas further apply to “Conscious Companies” as well as the many ways our food choices impact our own health and the health of our environment.
NOTE: WholeFoods Magazine is a business-to-business publication. Information on this site should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before making lifestyle changes, including taking a dietary supplement. The opinions expressed by contributors and experts quoted in articles are not necessarily those of the publisher or editors of WholeFoods.