Consumer behaviour is a huge topic across the globe right now with particular focus on retail, from avoiding fast fashion to eliminating single use plastic these type of concerns are forcing us to to assess how we consume and what we can do to reduce our impact on the environment. In order to keep driving these initiatives forward we must take a pragmatic approach to our decisions by knowing more about the companies we buy from and how their product is made.
One way to do this is by researching before we make a purchase, it may seem like a laborious task but it is an easy way in which we can all take responsibility of our own consumption. It could also help you to engage with new brands or find ones that you didn’t know share the same principles as you. Keep it fun and do it frequently enough that you know the companies inside and out because the person who will benifit from it most is you!
1. Read their ‘about’ page
An easy way to check if sustainability and ethics live at the heart of a brand is by looking at the ‘about’ page, sometimes this can also be named as ‘our ethos’ or ‘environment’ located at the bottom of their website. Within this section they may openly discuss the source of their products, the welfare of their employees or talk about plant trees. It will also bring you to find more about the people behind the name, their story and who they work with. This first step will help you to choose brands based on their values and ensure that it fits yours.
2. Always know what materials they use.
Brands that offer transparency will clearly state what materials are in the products they sell and where they source from, take time to look at their product information section on the website or ask in store, if you can’t do this then call them. You want to look out for materials that are organic, recycled, reclaimed and natural or those that are sustainable with no harm to the environment, perhaps they use wood that is FSC certified or repurposed. Knowing more about the materials also means that you can care for the product to make it last.
3. Check how it’s made.
Finding out about the process of their production is good because most companies that are genuinely committed to sustainability will also be committed to ethical manufacturing. Looking into their production could also highlight how they are making significant changes like reducing their water consumption within their factories to cut down on excess waste. On another note manufacture also means who works for them to make the items and what conditions they work under, if a brand becomes a certified member of any organisations such as Fair Trade International then they will clearly place these symbols for you to see.
4. Will it have to be transported to you?
Try to check where the product is made before you buy it, it may seem obvious but if an item is made outside of the country you live in then it will be transported to you by air or sea which in turn adds to pollution. If you can avoid doing this by buying a similar product locally then try to do so. Purchasing online can also lead to an unnecessary trip with a courier service so checking to see if a store near you has the item in stock can make a big difference, that way you can collect it on your way home from work or when you next pop to the shops.
5. Find out how it will be packaged.
Packaging is also a major factor when buying as we all know with Amazon and their ridiculously large boxes for small items. There is no point in buying an ethical piece of furniture from a company if its going to be contained within plastic packaging, why not research to see if they use recycled cardboard, or offer you a way to recycle it after you receive the item?
Finally, as a caveat to end this post I would say be aware of false claims and greenwashing from those that appear ethical but actually are not, any restriction or difficulty into finding out the above information about a company should be a red flag. By doing research as much as you can before and tracking them on social media or online for a while will help you to gauge who is being authentic.