Social enterprise Conscious Consumer attracts $2M to fund UK launch

Conscious Consumer wants to get 200,000-to-300,000 consumers in New Zealand signed up to its platform.

Social enterprise Conscious Consumer, whose data analytics platform connects consumers with retailers to help promote more ethical and sustainable business practices, has raised $2 million to fund a beachhead into the UK.

The Wellington-based business has attracted 500 retail stores and 20,000 consumers and has ambitions to take its product to the UK, where chief executive Ben Gleisner sees an opportunity to tap into a market that has a level of maturity in both growing consumer desire for better social outcomes, but also an investor appetite to fund that business. The company, which had its origins in a charitable cafe accreditation programme, raised $2 million from investors led by impact investment vehicle Soul Capital, and joined by the likes of Stephen Tindall's K1W1 Fund, The Icehouse and Angel HQ, and is planning a $1 million raise from UK investors next year.

"More traditional investing groups are now waking up to the fact you can have financial returns and get some social and environmental impact," Gleisner told BusinessDesk. "It's a multi-faceted return, where the social and environmental returns can happen from day one."

Social enterprises have been attracting wider public attention in recent months after the global after a world forum was held in Christchurch in September, and as a growing number of young entrepreneurs increasingly adopt a multi-pronged approach to developing business mandates.

Conscious Consumer is among that new breed of company, providing retailers greater insights about their customers and what they would like to see more of, while empowering consumers to lobby for practices they're personally more comfortable with. The company's laundry lists of social impacts to date include supporting 45 stores to switch to free range certified products, 21 firms to switch to eco-friendly packaging, and 19 to start buying Fair Trade certified products.

Gleisner says that not only underpins support for a more socially conscious business but also creates greater engagement with its customers.

"If a business has a social or environmental purpose, it can have a strong business model," he said.

Conscious Consumer wants to get 200,000-to-300,000 consumers in New Zealand signed up to its platform, which Gleisner says will provide the scale to send "a significant signal to the market" to shift company behaviour.

Gleisner will spearhead the launch into the UK, moving there next year, where he wants to build a team of six to eight people to support the expansion. They considered 20 markets before settling on the UK. The company has a heavyweight director lined up as well, with former PricewaterhouseCoopers global vice chair Richard Collier-Keywood set to join the board.


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