To align your purchases with your social values, start by paying attention to where you spend your money. Buying from companies that support the things you care about can help ensure you’re spending in the right places.
What social values can guide my purchases?
If there’s a cause you care about, there’s probably a company that cares too. Here are some common values that companies strive to promote:
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- Environmental impact
- animal rights
- Human and labor rights
If you want to make sure the businesses you support care about the issues you’re having, follow these steps:
1. Look for company sustainability reports
A company’s sustainability reports can help you assess whether it does what it says.
“Consumers looking to dig deeper into the sustainability of a particular company can find environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings and reports at Sustainalytics, MSCI, GRI and others,” says Justin Bean, author and innovation at strategy and sustainable development solution. environmental business division manager at Hitachi.
“These help understand how businesses are rated and what they prioritize so we can make more informed decisions about where to shop and what to buy this holiday season,” Bean said.
Katrina Caspelich, director of marketing at the nonprofit Fashion Responsibility Remake, wrote in an email that the brand’s site may also be revealing. “The first thing I do when I find out about a new brand is go to its ‘about’ page, find out how the brand started, how it grew, its values and where the materials came from,” says Caspelich. .
And if you still have questions, it’s worth asking them before you buy. “If I find any gaps in the information I’m looking for, I’ll email the company and ask,” Caspelich says.
2. Look for third-party certifications
Third-party certifications can help verify a brand’s claims.
“One of the easiest ways to find more sustainable options is to research third-party rating and verification agencies,” says Bean.
There are several certifications that Bean recommends looking for, and they vary depending on what you’re buying.
Here are a few worth looking into for those who are environmentally conscious:
- Certified climate neutral
- board of forest stewardship
- ENERGY STAR qualified
- Rainforest Alliance Certified
- Bluesign APPROVED
For those interested in human and labor rights, check out the following certifications:
- Certified B Companies
- Fair trade certified
- Responsible down standard
- Responsible Wool Standard
3. Learn to spot greenwashing
If you want to buy based on your values, watch out for companies that use sustainability as a marketing tactic.
“More often than not, brands mislead, exaggerate, or lie about their environmental and social sustainability…aka greenwash,” Caspelich says.
“A telltale sign of an unsustainable product masquerading as a green product is when you notice a contradiction,” says Bean.
“It may be a package covered in leaves and forest animals, but covered in large amounts of non-recyclable plastic or filled with polystyrene peanuts,” says Bean. Looking for such discrepancies can help determine if a brand truly aligns with your values.
Incorrect or incomplete wording in terms of third-party verification is another greenwash red flag. “There might be a word that sounds close to certification but is just a little ‘off’, like ‘Organic’ instead of ‘USDA Organic’ or a green seal with no certified markings,” says Bean.
Finally, pay attention to how a brand markets its recycling tactics. Many fashion companies collect old products for recycling and simultaneously sell new products at a discount.
“While that may sound promising, the reality is that these brands are exploiting the ‘opportunity’ to encourage greater consumption, which in turn benefits their bottom line,” says Caspelich. “It does nothing to solve the overproduction that fuels overconsumption.”
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