Conscious Consumerism: Berlin Start-Ups Without Borders

© Leather Tanning/Courtesy of Kancha
© Leather Tanning/Courtesy of Kancha
Photo of Harriet Blackmore
29 November 2016

With people in western countries becoming increasingly interested in the source of their products and produce, new companies are springing up pioneering these values, and pre-existing companies are beginning to change their priorities. Certain supermarkets across the board are offering a greater variety of ethically sourced products. Patrons and producers are wanting to know how their products are made and where they are coming from. It’s no longer the phase of conscious-less anonymity. Berlin is a city where this trend, hopefully a permanent one, is on the up-and-up. An awareness is being instilled in the practices of more and more companies in this ever-evolving city.

Ampion Venture Bus Participants | © SAIS Programme/Flickr

There is a growing awareness in the world, as seen by trending markets, for the importance in paying attention to the source of products, whether that be food, clothing, cosmetics, or anything that people purchase. This is of particular importance in Berlin, a city that refuses to regress. The transparency of companies is increasingly expected, and people are choosing to support companies because of this. Driven by the demands of consumers, many companies are choosing to consider their ecological and ethical impact more than ever. It is becoming increasingly important that big organizations and companies have reduced harm to the local communities, the local environments and are making a conscious effort towards sustainability and fairness.

In Berlin, companies with connectivity and communication at the heart of their actions are becoming more common and are celebrated for this. Conscious consumers make up a large part of the clientele pool which explains for an opt to support these smaller companies who are aligned with these value systems. This need and demand manifests itself in the types of companies that harmoniously exist in Berlin. For example, Ampion, a Berlin start up, responded to the start-up culture and technology revolution by uniting it with goals of sharing and mobilizing resources and education. Ampionconducts bus trips through five countries in a week, based around hubs in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, connecting entrepreneurs and investors, trying to stimulate the sharing of ideas and opportunities of anything from female empowerment to agriculture to e-health. Examples like this are making it clear that innovation and progress come from people bringing what they can offer, exchanging skills and ideas, and learning from each other. This type of outreach wields education in a way that serves as empowerment. People in these various countries are connecting their unique ideas to investors and taking their ideas global with an ethical mindset at the forefront.

© Leather Tanning/Courtesy of Kancha

Another Berlin start-up, Kancha, employs these ethical values into its pedagogy. They work with Kyrgyzstani workshops in Bishkek. Kancha, at its heart, strives to work with local communities and the skills within them to create products that can be shared globally. Founded by Tobias Gerhard and Sebastian Gluschak in 2013, Kancha is one of a growing number of companies built with sustainable, ethical and ecological consideration at its foundations. Producing products such as backpacks and laptop cases, the company works with communities in Kyrgyzstan using the local, traditional craft techniques such as felting and leather working.

Key to Kancha is transparency, and they pride themselves on the ability to have this quality. The ability to trust the company you purchase from is becoming a key factor in choosing which companies to support for many people which is substantiated by Berlin’s demand for it.

Each of Kancha’s products comes with a card with the name of the person who made the item, emphasizing the value in the story of your item – where it came from, who made it, and how it got to you. This idea of a greater connection and consciousness with the objects and products people have around them and the footprint they have is something Kancha embodies. This type of production allows for a level of intimacy unparalleled by larger corporations that still have a place in this evolutionary city, but are starting to dwindle.

© Lydia Sewing/Courtesy of KANCHA Design

Awareness for these innovative movements and the pioneering ideas behind them is key. While individual efforts to cause less harm to the people and the environment involved in the sourcing and manufacturing of products are a step in the right direction, organizations such as these, which celebrate communities and ideas, will be at the forefront of driving developments. Berlin may not be the greenest city out there, but in its demand for ethical sourcing and less distance between product and producer, it secures a rhythm to be heeded. There’s a paradigm shift happening in the Hauptstadt and everyone seems to be a part of it.

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