What to Look for When Choosing Sustainable Businesses

Sensi Graves is a pro kitesurfer and owner of a sustainable bikini company, Sensi Graves Bikinis. Many businesses claim to be eco-friendly, green, sustainable… or whatever marketing buzzword is trending at the time. But are they really? Sensi tells us the key traits to look for when supporting a sustainable business.

As the world supports more and more people, it’s hard to ignore the strain billions of people put on the environment. It’s increasingly important for both the consumer to support businesses that are stepping up to find more eco-friendly and less destructive production practices and for businesses to make lessening their environmental footprint a real priority. As both the founder of a business and a conscious consumer, I’ve identified 4 key traits to look for when evaluating how environmentally friendly a business really is. Use this guide to influence your future consumer decisions!

Do they give back?

Companies that identify as eco-friendly, should have a business model of putting their money where their mouth is. Many companies use the excuse, “we can’t afford it”, but it’s about priorities. If a company can’t donate 1 cent for every dollar they earn, chances are, they won’t donate $1000 for every $100,000. Giving back should be written into the DNA of the company. This shows you directly what their values are. If they claim to be sustainable, this is an easy way to demonstrate that.

Where do they manufacture?

Look at where a company chooses to produce their goods. Environmental regulations differ by country. You’ll want to choose products manufactured in countries with proper environmental regulations. The EU, Canada and the US are a few of the better ones. More resources can be found here. For my company, Sensi Graves Bikinis, being made in the USA is important. The environmental regulations are better, the factory workers are paid a fair wage, and we reduce our carbon footprint by keeping production local.

What materials do they use?

What their products are made of is the biggest indicator of how serious a company regards their environmental impact. What they product has the largest impact on the environment. Are they choosing to work with raw materials that are sustainably produced or are they working with chemicals? Are they buying the best, most quality raw materials or are they cutting corners and delivering a less than stellar product. Investigate the materials listed on the labels. Identify what goes into their product and go a google search to really dig into the environmental impact. A good rule of run, the more natural the material, the better the finished product.

What packaging does their product come in?

One of the biggest waste of materials from companies is the packaging that surrounds the product? From poly bags for clothing to single use plastic containers for make-up, the material matters. When looking to purchase a new product, look closely at what the packaging material is made up of. Many, many alternatives exist to out there to virgin plastic, the easiest one being recycled plastics. Look for companies that, at a minimum, utilize recycled plastic in their packaging. Even better, compostable (not biodegradable which is actually worse) packaging.

Beware of biodegradable. The term biodegradable has turned into more of a marketing term. For something to be considered biodegradable, it must break down into smaller and smaller pieces until microorganisms can consume it (hello-plastics already do this). Actual breakdown in landfills is rare and many manufacturers are using the term biodegradable without any claims to back it up. Real biodegradable plastics, with the Biodegradable Products Institute Logo, need to be sent to a commercial composting facility. Currently, no curbside collection services will take them.

It’s the responsibility of the business to lessen their environmental harm, but it’s the responsibility of the consumer to identify and support companies that have environmental values and that are choosing to produce sustainably. If your favorite brands don’t utilize any of the above practices, ask them why not? Give them a chance to right the wrong. Express your concern and use it as an opportunity to educate. Overall, buy less, buy quality, and make your products last.