The Business of Going Green
According to the U.S. EPA, pursuing sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.
Implementing sustainability into a business can be a tough thing to swallow. Too often business owners shy away from considering themselves green because they feel that they have to be 100% sustainable before they can proudly announce it to the world. Although I’m not a fan of greenwashing (who is?), I think small steps should be celebrated and business owners should be proud to show the ‘wins’ within their transparency model.
The Brand Values of Sustainable & Ethical Brands
In my opinion, there are several ways products can be sustainable. For one, the ingredients or textiles can be eco-friendly, the workers should always be paid fairly at a living wage, and the brand’s carbon footprint can be minimized using renewable energy. In addition, products can be sourced locally and the company can have the philanthropic motivation to donate a percentage of their sales to charity.
1. All-Natural Ingredients and Textiles
The most obvious way to pick a sustainable product is to take a look at the ingredients. A simple way to do this is to seek products that are made from natural fibers that lay low on harsh, synthetic chemicals. For beauty retailers, I like to check the first 10 ingredients (if you’re lucky, there’s usually less than 10!) and give them a quick sweep. If they consist of aloe, shea butter, argan and essential oils, you’ve picked up a product that has some healing properties that your skin will love (I can contest to it). If you don’t recognize the first few ingredients, let alone pronounce them, consider picking an all-natural brand.
When buying a fashion piece make sure you check the labels. Natural textiles like organic cotton, tencel, and hemp are great fibers to start with. Synthetic fibers like polyester and spandex have micro-plastics, which means they’ll last for decades before fully decomposing.
2. Fair Trade and Fairly Paid
When it comes to sustainability, paying people at a living wage is non-negotiable. Every company should pay people fairly, as not doing so is taking advantage of people who are simply trying to survive. There are many garment workers living in poverty-stricken areas who source clothing to huge fast fashion retailers while being paid little to nothing in unsafe, unhygienic working environments.
To avoid products made in these conditions, checking in with the transparency of a brand is key. It allows us to ensure fair-trade practices and that healthy relationships between brands and workers are established. Knowing this is a sure sign in knowing whether or not a brand runs their business ethically. If you are not sure if your favorite brand treats their workers with integrity ask them, ‘Who made my clothes?’ Fashion Revolution week in April encourages people to ask brand who made their clothing to encourage more transparency in the fashion model. However, this doesn’t restrict us from asking this question all year round.
3. Philanthropic Heart
Another way you can seek sustainable brands is by taking note if they give back to a green organization. Many brands give a decent percentage to Greenpeace or the World Wildlife Foundation, among other eco-groups. One of my favorite skincare companies uses organic honey in their formulas, and donates a percentage of sales to save the bees and teach classes about beekeeping. To pinpoint transparency, consider inquiring brands about the exact percentage of sales that is going to the charity, and ask what the donated funds will specifically provide.
Sustainability wears a lot of different hats and can be interpreted in several ways. Choosing products by shopping consciously based on the ethics that ring true to you is a great way to implement sustainability into your life and to make the world a kinder place.