Is Bigger Better? Depends Who You Ask
Big brands are dominating the cannabis industry, but to what end?
Today I received an email newsletter with the headline, "How Supply Chain Disruptions are Impacting the Cannabis Industry."
I was like, huh? Local growers in Washington, where my buyers purchase exclusively, have zero issues with the supply chain. That's because most of them are small, sustainable craft producers. But according to the article the big cannabis brands are feeling the crunch.
Big brands are taking over the cannabis industry. But to what end? All the financial backing in the world can't unload the cargo ships of the massive coolers, automated trimming machines, IoT lighting systems, and warehousing materials that big cannabis companies need to keep growing.
Although I was schooled on the business concept that bigger is better, I'm not so sure now. In my world, bigger is not better. If we take a peek into younger consumers' buying trends, this feeling seems to be shared by many.
- 74% of millennials are more likely to buy brands that support social issues they care about
- 70% of millennials (18-34) said they would pay more for a socially or environmentally responsible product
- 62% of millennials and Gen Z prefer to buy from sustainable brands
Why bigger is not better
Bigger is not sustainable for the planet, your clients and consumers, or your products. The shipping and supply chain issues affecting our world are hardly foreign to those who watch the news, but for those who live along the Pacific Northwest's vast waterways, we can see the problem up close.
If I look West towards the blue, snow-capped Olympic Mountains, about a mile away across the Puget Sound, I am greeted by three large red and black container ships. All of them are full of cargo ordered by mostly big businesses and corporations, and these boats have been anchored for months.
Since the crews trapped on these boats (legally, they cannot disembark) need heat to survive in winter and A/C to stay cool in summer, the boats run their engines day and night, emitting a low, consistent humming noise. How much energy are these boats wasting? The humming noise can't be good for the fish, and residents that live near the water have now started to complain about the hum keeping them awake at night. In addition, these boats house large crews. I hate to ask, but where does all the poop go? The Puget Sound? These anchored cargo ships are floating environmental disasters.
Stashed cargo boats are not limited to my neighborhood, nor are they exclusive to supply chain issues. The ships get stashed during good times and bad. Throughout the Sound, there are probably hundreds of them waiting to dock and unload their cargo right now. Yet, each day they sit. Residents of the Puget Sound area feel the impacts of our world's big business processes daily and up close, be they environmental or supply-chain related, or both. Perhaps that is why so many in the Puget Sound area are so devoted to purchasing from smaller, local PNW-based brands like Filson, Dave's Killer Bread, PCC Markets - brands whose products don't get stuck on cargo ships?
In support of LOHAS
Buying local and small is not a method of consumer purchasing limited to the PNW, but it has been typically limited to a subset of American consumers. That's changing fast. Have you heard of LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability), a consumer movement born in the 1990s? It is more than just a movement now, as almost a third of American adults identify as health-focused, sustainability-minded, LOHAS consumers.
Looking forward to the next generation of power consumers, millennials and Gen Z, how many of them have sprung from LOHAS households and primarily relate with, and only engage with sustainable brands that care actually about the planet and its people, and how its products are produced from an eco, ethical and quality standpoint. Where those products are produced will also matter. Big businesses - big brands I should say, don't produce anything in the US, much less local to you and me. How will big brands and big businesses square these issues with Gen Z?
Size is proportionate to carbon expenditure and limitations in customer choice. Big corporations will never be able to make the planet and its people part of the brand mission because public corporations' first priority is keeping the stockholders happy and vested by selling massive amounts of stuff - anything so long as it turns a profit.
The exhausting, quarterly exercise of appeasing shareholders takes away all or most of the resources and budget that the corporation had available to spend on corporate responsibility. Not much is left in the kitty to put towards a sustained program of conducting business in an environmentally friendly manner and producing top-quality products made close to home by people who are treated well by their employers and who also love their jobs.
Millennials and Generation Z will eventually put a huge, positive dent in the side of big business by either ghosting their products out of business or forcing them to change their ways. It is only a matter of time.