Are you excited and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of brands claiming to be ethical?
To me, it’s mostly the latter (sigh). The growing number of ethical brands on the shelves is great, but doesn’t mean much.
Greenwashing is a thing (and just recently, it’s in the very pillar of the EU Green Deal). Companies do it through false information, marketing tricks, or simply overstating their environmental achievements. There's no real change in behaviour, simply a better marketing front. Without elaboration, ‘eco-friendly’ means nothing.
As a consumer, it’s our job to identify and learn about the brands before making a purchase. Yes, it’s a lot of responsibility, but it doesn’t have to feel like work.
This is how you can spot greenwashing from miles away.
Study the label
A brand's sourcing principles speak volume about their ethics.
Does the ethical claim look overdone with hand-drawn image of a farmer gently picking their fresh produce? Labels which seem to be amplifying (or dramatizing, shall we say) a green message gets immediate red alerts from us. A green label, a recycling symbol, a cardboard packaging or off-white paper can quickly appeal to your emotions, even without a good amount of justifications.
Front label is all marketing. Businesses aren’t obliged to write their facts in their front label, so turn it around!
Lesser known brands might place their products below or above the ‘eye-level’ area, because it’s cheaper. You might find something genuine in these sections.
Even though businesses can write whatever they want on their own website, reading their ethics page at least will give you some idea about where they’re at, and where they’re going with their ethical practices.
Read their claims closely
Does the brand show credentials and progress on their sustainability efforts?
This could be Fairtrade, Fairmined, 1% for the Planet or B Corp. Some companies set up their own certifications or industry certifications and standards with a board composed solely of companies and trade associations - who of course have an agenda. Not all certifications are equal.
A claim that's poorly defined or very broad can easily be misunderstood. “We donate a percentage of profits” sounds nice, but do they share how much is actually donated or to whom? Sometimes these symbolic actions are actually diverting your attention from more important issues.
Including a membership logo doesn’t mean the company did anything more than pay membership fees.
Do your research
Read more about the industry, not just the brand.
Like proudly stating all employees receive health insurance and pension, when the law requires so. Or saying their diamonds are ethical because they follow the Kimberley Process, while that’s the only way we’re legally allowed to trade diamonds.
If the metal is recycled, or the gemstone comes from a Western country with clear legislation for mining practices, it may simply be distracting you from the bigger environmental impact.
In the jewelry industry, this is a big no-no. Devil is in the details. Find the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ behind their claim. It’s easy to purchase materials from suppliers who claim to be ethical, and not so easy to address actual problems in the supply chain. So get into those details. Ask questions. Dig for answers. The more transparent a brand is, the more trustworthy they are.
Being ethical is a holistic practice. It’s in the office, in the people, in the very DNA of the business, not just in the packaging label. It goes beyond skin deep.
To us, the bottom line is: transparency
Any products contain a myriad of stories. Sometimes good, inspiring stories; sometimes people with malicious intent tangled in it. Even though it’s possible there’s no business with 100% ethical practices, ethical businesses should be open about where they lack and keep on striving forward.
We’ve shared with you our Impact Report and our journey through the ups and downs of going carbon neutral. Going ethical isn’t easy! And that’s why we’d love you to be on this journey with us.