Sustainable shopping.

In the past, when it came to consumer choice, price and brand might have been king. But spurred on by the effects of climate change, New Zealanders increasingly want to support climate-friendly businesses that are thinking sustainably and doing their bit to contribute to a low carbon economy in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Research is reflecting this shift in thinking. According to EECA's (the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) regular Consumer Monitor, 82 percent of New Zealanders want businesses to do more to reduce their environmental impact. And while EECA's Business Monitor says only 24 percent of businesses think their customers or suppliers are encouraging them to do more, the idea that acting on climate change can give a competitive advantage does seem to be gaining ground. This isn't all about the big corporations, either. New Zealanders want small and medium-sized businesses to be sustainable as well.

Auckland early childhood educator and mother-of-three Sarah Lacey spends a lot of time - and money - shopping online for both her family and for extra supplies for her childcare centre. She says as the affects of climate change have increased, she has found herself wanting to see businesses prioritise their footprint.

Oh for sure I look up a business and see how green it is before I buy anything from them. If they are carbon-neutral or use compostable packaging or just have a commitment to improving things when it comes to the environment, then they get my money.

Sarah Lacey, consumer

The power these customers hold is twofold. Firstly, they inspire friends and family to follow their example by becoming more carbon-conscious when it comes to purchases – EECA's research shows that pressure from friends and family has a greater influence than societal pressure on the number of climate actions people take.

When it comes to businesses themselves, some do see that reducing energy use and taking a more climate-friendly approach is a smart business decision future-proofing them from shifting consumer preferences.

Citizen Collective is one business ahead of the curve

The Auckland-based venture takes unsold supermarket bread and turns it into beer, and then uses the mash from the beer-brewing process to turn it into bread.

"At the end of the brew, we were left with this beautiful product and we figured there must be a way to use it," says Don Shephard, Citizen co-founder.

"We're using less water, land and energy to grow, harvest and dry the barley — which is very intensive from an energy perspective — leading to fewer emissions.

"We've also got some great reviews for our beer which is very reassuring," says Shepherd. "We reckon we're doing something really worthwhile, but the products have to be good in order to make it work."

How to use your consumer power

New Zealanders can also directly encourage businesses to make changes to help reduce their energy use and carbon emissions. There are a range of simple steps we can all follow to encourage businesses to walk the talk.

  • Use your influence

Telling others what you're doing differently in your own life to support climate-friendly businesses is one of the most important things you can do - so make sure you share your finds and tips, and chat, post and share. Given the power of word of mouth when it comes to climate action, we are all influencers! Just remember this is all about progress and not perfection and it's key businesses feel supported in (authentically) talking about the steps they are taking.

  • Vote with your wallet

Where we spend our money is the ultimate way to show consumer power. Once a business sees there is profit and brand loyalty in being climate-friendly, others will follow suit. Likewise, a business that's not doing well on the environmental front may be incentivised to do better.

  • Knowledge is (green) power

Be curious and stay informed about energy, emissions, and climate change.

Use this handy Guide to the Language of Climate Change to find out or confirm what the words and phrases around climate change mean. This can help with speaking confidently about the issues with others.

  • Ask questions

Asking to see a business's sustainability plan or asking what they are doing to minimise their environmental impact can go a long way. Even just a couple of customers asking can be the impetus a business needs to get started on the journey. Customers can check if a business has environmental accreditation, like the ones offered by B Corp or Toitū Envirocare.

This story was originally published on Stuff as sponsored content.

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