As consumers we can all make a positive impact on the environment and on society by being a bit more thoughtful about how we choose to spend our money. This means looking for products that have the least impact on the environment and the most positive impact on the people who created it.
Becoming a more aware consumer at work
TEA & COFFEE: An easy place to start is looking at the tea and coffee provisions you and your team buy for work. Make the switch to Organic, Fairtrade or locally sourced versions – and don’t forget any milk, sugar or biscuits that you get as well.
WORKING WITH SUPPLIERS: The NHS has huge buying power and a huge number of suppliers – we can challenge our suppliers to be more sustainable and ethical in how they produce and source the goods they provide. Start off by asking the question – what are they are currently doing? Is there room for improvement? Many will be happy to take on board suggestions.
This short video with Ottobock shows how we can encourage our suppliers to be more sustainable.
TALK TO YOUR PROCUREMENT TEAM OR MANAGER: It might be possible to build sustainability criteria into the procurement process so that going forwards all suppliers need to show they are doing their best to minimise their impact on the environment.
SPEAK OUT: If you ways work could improve the sustainability of regular supplies then talk to someone – it could be your manager or a colleague. It can be as simple as making the tea club items Fairtrade, or it could be sourcing cardboard items over plastic – reusable over disposable etc.
The Sustainable Development Unit have some great guidance for sustainable procurement – read more here.
Becoming a more aware consumer at home
There’s plenty to do outside of the workplace as well. Check out our top ideas here – and let us know if you have any others!
Uncovering the hidden costs
We all know that buying everyday items has a financial cost. But what about the hidden costs of the things we buy? For example, buying cheap clothes which have been made in sweatshops, or a factory farmed animals that may make cheap meat but with animals living in poor conditions.
Spend a bit of time finding out about the more ethical, sustainable options available. There are now lots of initiatives and kitemarks that can help us make informed choices when we’re buying, like buying Fairtrade to support human rights or organic to contribute to environmental sustainability for example.
Sometimes the choices aren’t straightforward though. Is it better to buy organic vegetables flown in from overseas, or non-organic vegetables from a local farmer for example? There are also lots of tips and advice on the web – a great place to start is the Ethical Consumer’s website or have a flick through Mike Berners-Lee’s book ‘How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything‘.
The decisions we make, once we’re aware of the issues and impacts, can make a real difference. There are several ways to buy with a clean conscience:
POSITIVE BUYING: This means favouring particular ethical products, such as energy saving lightbulbs, organic produce, Fairtrade items, green electricity tariffs and ethical bank accounts.
NEGATIVE PURCHASING: This means avoiding products that you disapprove of, such as battery eggs, gas-guzzling cars, or products containing unsustainable palm oil.
COMPANY-BASED PURCHASING: This means targeting a business as a whole and avoiding all the products made by one company. For example the Nestle boycott (the world’s longest running boycott, starting in the 1970s) targets all its brands and subsidiaries in a bid to get the company to change the way it markets its baby milk formula across the world.