Never before has the axiom “less is more” rang truer. The devastating impact of industrialisation and population growth on the planet is impossible to ignore. 

Signs of climate change are evident around the globe, with extreme weather events – such as the recent heavy flooding seen in KwaZulu-Natal – becoming increasingly frequent.    

As a result, people have become more concerned about their carbon footprint and how decisions – from where they eat to what they buy – will affect the planet. There’s a greater focus on recycling and reducing clutter. 

The rampant consumerism that placed such a premium on ownership has been eclipsed by the convenience of having access to a product or service as and when it is needed, without the burden of credit or debt. 

“We have become users, rather than owners,” says Jonathan Hurvitz, CEO of Teljoy. This means that being able to access and benefit from a service or product holds more value than being able to own it.” 

Subscribing to the services or products we need, from Uber and Bolt for ride-hailing to Spotify and Netflix for entertainment, has become a way of life. 

For example, the convenience of being able to access a home-cleaning service like SweepSouth on any day you desire, for a length of time you stipulate, suits modern consumers down to the ground. 

“The same applies to household items like flatscreen TVs and gas ovens. By opting to rent appliances and electronics from Teljoy for as long as is needed, you can enjoy all the benefits of access, without the risk that comes with ownership, knowing that your subscription also includes maintenance and risk cover,” says Hurvitz.    

In 2019, even before the pandemic highlighted the importance of experiences over material goods, a global study showed that 68% of respondents no longer believed that a person’s status was defined by what they owned. 

But there certainly has been a noticeable shift to conscious consumerism in the past few years, and the subscription economy has been well-placed to meet this growing need for less stuff and greater flexibility and convenience.    

Initially it was the Millennials driving the subscription economy. They wanted to test a product before buying, or sought a quick fix: a flat screen TV for the World Cup rugby, for example, or to use a treadmill during winter only, says Hurvitz. 

But the Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey shows that the tide is turning, with future-forward Gen Zs pushing the sustainability agenda. 

“They have made a conscious shift towards a minimalist, low-impact lifestyle and by subscribing to a product while it is needed, whether it’s an office chair for a work-from-home setup or a sought-after appliance, they can enjoy the product without having to worry about its environmental impact,” says Hurvitz. 

“In fact, 28% of all respondents said they’ve started or deepened their consumer relationships with businesses whose products and services benefit the environment.”   

With this groundswell of demand for shift away from the traditional transaction where an item is bought outright, Gen Zs are leading the charge for conscious consumerism. 

“Companies that offer a flexible subscription-based model that meets a customer’s specific need, will not only satiate Gen Zs’ desire for a more transient, people-centric lifestyle, they will also be doing the best thing for the planet,” concludes Hurvitz.