Eco-Friendly has to mean Ethical.
In Small Changes we’ve taken many brands off our shelves over the past 11 years due to ethical reasons. The main one being: previously independent ethical brands that we loved were bought out by larger unethical companies. These parent companies make obscene amounts of money off mass destruction and harm and then buy out ethical businesses to improve their image. They piggyback on the emerging vegan and Eco-friendly market and it may seem great because it means more of these products are out there but if you look deeper you can see the big bad wolf in sheep’s clothing.
It is fundamental that businesses buying products look out for signs of unacceptable practices in the supply chain such as corruption, fraud, modern-day slavery, and wider issues such as child labour. One of the UK’s biggest health food retailers, with many shops in Ireland, scores high on these unacceptable practices and are owned by incredibly shady multi-billion dollar companies. Independent businesses like ours have the flexibility to act fast – we don’t think “this is going to affect our share price”. If we see something that’s wrong we have the power to act on it. Our protest is visible on the sometimes empty shelves at a cost to our own profit because it takes considerable time and research to replace these popular brands. This sometimes means we lose favour with customers too. We’re asked several times a day why we no longer have X brand : eg. Ecover, Alpro, Green & Blacks, Pukka, Oatly, Linda McCartney…and all we can do is give our customers the information we’ve learned so that they can make more informed choices. We’re careful where our soya products, loose dried foods and fresh foods are from so that we don’t source from countries who are being destroyed by deforestation or drought. We’ve turned away lots of new seemingly “green” brands too because the proof is always in the fine print.
An Eco-friendly business or lifestyle is about much more than what has plastic packaging and what hasn’t – that is important but it’s not the only factor. An Eco-friendly business/lifestyle is an absolute minefield, dodging the injustices in the world because they’re often so well disguised, glossed over, and green-washed.
It also shouldn’t need to be said that staff should be paid a living wage, have sick pay, and full paid holidays. There’s a reason we use our own bike for deliveries and don’t use amazon. We know we are in no way perfect but we always strive to improve and do our best. Shopping local and independent means you as a customer can voice your concerns and ask “where does this come from” or “who made this?” and have the power to influence what’s on our shelves.
Please read the piece by Ethical Consumer on Ethical Brands Owned By Unethical Companies that inspired this post. We are not affiliated with Ethical Consumer, we are just long time subscribers!