Having an ethical business standpoint is an important distinction for consumers – but, explains Tiffany Kelly, the founder of global sustainable community Beyond Bamboo, sometimes just being ethical isn’t enough …
Pre-pandemic, Brits were sending more than 50% of reusable furniture to landfill. Meanwhile in the US, because of the difficulties involved in recycling upholstered furniture and mattresses, and because of the diverse materials involved in manufacturing furniture and furnishings, more than 9 million tons of wood, metal, glass, fabric, leather and foam waste ended up in American landfill sites each year.
But attitudes are changing. Ethical consumerism is booming – consumers now see ethics as a key element when purchasing. For sustainable businesses to thrive, they need to make it easy for consumers to understand what they are buying, and how their product is more sustainable and less environmentally damaging than a competitor – and the right accreditation is vital. Here are four tips to help you get started:
1. Do your research
Customers who care about ethical issues will do their own research, so be careful that you don’t get caught out by aligning yourself with the wrong organisation. Some well-known accreditors have eroded consumer trust due to poor policing and a lack of transparency.
2. Ensure the accreditation process is robust
Where does it come from? Who created it? Do they have the expertise to vet both the brands and the products that are being offered? The Beyond Bamboo supplier accreditation, for example, looks at the whole supply chain from start to finish, providing a ‘full service’ that reviews all aspects of the chain and provides support for further development towards sustainability moving forward.
This added support can really help businesses make progress on packaging, which is a massive contributor to environmental waste – in 2017, the UK generated 9.3 million tonnes of packaging waste.
3. Collaboration is key
Working with accreditors that collaborate with likeminded organisations to share best practice and hold one another accountable gives further security. A great example is the Sustainable Spa Association, which has partnered with other sustainable hospitality organisations to provide a community and hub for sustainable procurement.
These networks of organisations are growing, and more and more are working towards the same goal - to go beyond sustainable, and reverse the damage caused by climate change. By collaborating with one another they are sharing knowledge and best practice, they are able to offer a more robust accreditation and demonstrate transparency.
4. Find an accreditation service that is aligned with your mission and purpose
If triple-bottom-line reporting [profit, people and plent] is important to you, accreditation will need to cover both sustainability (environmental impact) and ethics (people and community). Once you have researched the accreditors, set up a call with the three organisations you like most, and don’t be afraid to interview them. Drill down into who they are and what they stand for. Ask them to explain what the process will be, and the level of support that is on offer.
This will allow you to get a feel for the people you will work with as well as the service on offer, and ensure that you have an accreditation service that not only draws in consumers, but also feels good to you as a business.
According to a report by Shelton Group 2018, 86% of consumers say companies should take a stand on social and environmental issues. Consumers and investors are flocking to companies that demonstrate sustainability, but will actively block those they believe to be greenwashing. The right accreditation will make your business instantly attractive to both.
Tiffany Kelly founded Beyond Bamboo, a global community of sustainable products, services and suppliers working as a collective to "restore and rejuvenate the planet". With a marketplace, B2B supplier portal, knowledge hub and team of people dedicated to triple-bottom-line reporting, Beyond Bamboo aims to help businesses do well by doing good.