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Ethical Sourcing and sustainability are buzzwords that are hard to be missed in today’s marketing campaigns. Every day we come across these words while strolling through our high streets or browsing the internet in search of products. But have we really thought about what these words actually mean in our everyday life ?
Ethical and Sustainable are two words that are interchangeable and it is very hard to separate them out. A brand cannot be sustainable if it is not ethical. So how do we define these buzzwords.
Ethical is not just limited to paying fair wages and treating the employees right , it goes beyond the realm of looking at the socio-economic impact of production on the people involved in the process. Are they paid as per the economic standards? What are the factory working conditions? Is everyone treated fairly at their workplace?
Sustainable on the other hand means reducing the environmental effects of the production by the use of more earth friendly manufacturing processes such as recycling water and materials, using solar power, reducing the use of harmful dyes etc. This involves looking at the end to end manufacturing cycle to understand what are the various steps undertaken to lessen the environmental damage. They are using renewable energy to production? Are the materials non-toxic and recyclable ?
To a lot of these brands, the words Ethical and Sustainable could mean different things. One can argue in many ways, Brands who claim to be ethical and sustainable should not be pushing their products on the consumers to increase consumerism to start with. The consumer should only be encouraged to buy what they need – this can be done by providing a long lasting product. This is the human element attached to sustainability – otherwise the brand is just Greenwashing themselves to promote them as Ethical and Sustainable brand just for marketing and PR purposes.
Greenwashing is when a company claims to be earth friendly but does not live up to the claims. How to spot them ? Here are a few flags that you need to keep in mind while looking for these brand:
For Example, if a Brand X is charging x4 mark-up on the product and claiming to support artisans when they are actually buying this product from a third party supplier who are infact buying the product from these artisans at a fraction of the cost and re-selling them to these brands. Have we thought about what % of the x4 mark-up is actually being passed down? This calls for a total transparency in the production and costing.
As a consumer, what part can we play to ensure that the brands are actually living up to the claims they are making? It is often very difficult to spot greenwashing because there is so much that is done in terms of social media engagements to actually lend them the “green halo” , we often find ourselves falling for these claims. Here are few ways in identifying if the brand is actually sustainable:
It might be overwhelming as a consumer to give so much attention to detail to every brand or product you buy – but it’s equally important that we as a consumer should be able to tell the difference between the sustainability attached to the product and the incorrect claims that’s made.That being said, a brand can only be a sustainability champion only if it is able to help its consumers make the conscious switch to a more sustainable living. The greatest way to do that is by being more transparent, offering long lasting products at a price point that makes the consumer switch to the sustainable option without having to give it a second thought.