Curated Marketplaces Are Helping Consumers Discover Sustainable Brands

Taking the legwork out of finding eco-friendly products

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This story is part of a weeklong series on climate change and sustainability. It’s in partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global journalism initiative to cover climate change in the week leading up to the U.N. summit on climate change in New York on Sept. 23. Click here to learn more about the initiative and read all of Adweek’s coverage on how sustainability and marketing intersect.

Eco-conscious consumers increasingly want to buy from brands with sustainability built into their business models. 

Data analysis firm GlobalWebIndex found that 57% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. A 2018 report from Edelman indicated the impact of this shift: “Brands are now being pushed beyond their classic business interests to become advocates for a better society.”

As more brands lean into sustainability, however, consumers are struggling to find and discover those brands and the products that fit within the eco-friendly framework. The reason: There’s a certain amount of education that has to happen between brand and consumer around sustainability efforts for that message to become clear—and with shoppers’ attention spans being shorter than ever, this can be a major challenge.

Enter: curated marketplaces for sustainable goods. 

Curated marketplaces take the legwork out of product discovery by putting retailers that use ethical labor practices and are working to decrease their overall environmental impact in one central location.

While product labels, certifications and on-site messaging can provide some cursory clues about a brand’s commitment to eco-friendliness, it’s often still difficult to get the sustainability message across to consumers. Having a marketplace highlighting these efforts accommodates a growing audience of so-called selectionists, a class of consumers who place higher value on both quality and discovery (and are willing to pay more for the right products that fit their values). 

One example of a curated marketplace is Bide Market, a sustainable pop-up held in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Created by Parisa Morris, co-founder of vegan skincare company Town & Anchor, Bide Market features artisans with sustainably made goods for the conscious consumer, as well as panel discussions and sustainability education for attendees.

“I wanted to create a shopping experience for both the customer and vendor to truly connect over shared values,” Morris told Adweek. “Our goal for this market is to build a community where sustainability isn’t just a trending topic. We’re taking the steps towards making an actual change—and I think that has to be done with a community.”

Conferences are another venue where curated marketplaces are popping up to cater to audiences interested in supporting environmentally friendly brands. 

The social entrepreneur-focused Yellow Conference, for example, includes what they call the Do-Good Goods Marketplace featuring various sustainable and ethical brands.

Lorin Van Zandt, co-founder of Missio Hair that helps educate stylists in identifying clients who may be victims of human trafficking, was a first-time vendor at this year’s Yellow Conference. She said having a presence at this particular marketplace made sense because the values of the event and its attendees line up with her brand’s own ethos.

“We only do a few in-person marketplaces and trade shows each year, but when we do, we opt for venues where we can best connect with our target audience,” Van Zandt said. “This marketplace has been a great opportunity for us, and we’ve been able to network, educate and make quite a few sales here, too.”

Not all curated marketplaces happen within physical retail venues, however. There are also an increasing number of online markets that sustainable retailers are leveraging to connect with conscious consumers.

Sites featuring curated collections of sustainable and eco-friendly goods like Leafd, Ethica and The Green Hub help spotlight brands and products, simplifying the product discovery process—and aren’t limited by a physical marketplace’s time, date or location, which opens the doors to a whole new realm of consumers.

Overall, these curated marketplaces, regardless of location, present a unique opportunity for brands to highlight their eco-friendly efforts to consumers who are increasingly placing greater value on sustainability. 

As brands continue to educate consumers and spotlight their efforts to be more responsible, these venues are one way to speed up the process and get in front of buyers who want to invest in goods that align with what’s important to them.