Environmentally Responsible Brands

What are environmentally responsible (aka eco conscious) brands?

Environmentally conscious brands highly value sustainability and work to eliminate their eco footprint as much as possible. Environmentally conscious brands are still constrained by economic factors because they need to turn a profit to keep the doors open, but they invest heavily in environmental stewardship.

In many cases being environmentally conscious also has economic benefits for brands. Companies that are truly eco conscious are earning a positive reputation, gaining a loyal following from their customers, and often they receive positive media attention for their efforts. More and more companies are embracing environmental responsibility as they see the benefits realized by other industries, but the transition is still slow.

Many companies are hesitant to invest in environmental efforts because in most industries the return on investment for eco related action is realized over a long period of time. Here are a few reasons corporations are resistant to becoming environmentally conscious:

  • Some corporations feel an obligation to turn as much of a profit as quick as possible for their shareholders, even at the expense of their impact on the environment.
  • For many industries environmental-focused projects are new and the results are not proven. Even though most companies report considerable growth from their green actions, more conservative leaders are hesitant to take risks.
  • Some corporations have already established a culture that doesn’t include environmental consciousness. It’s difficult and expensive for them to change their ways.

Things to know about environmentally conscious brands

Similar to eco-friendly products, there is a spectrum of consciousness among businesses. Some corporations are truly making progress toward sustainability, while others are using greenwashing techniques for short term gain and it can be hard to distinguish the two. Here are some things to know about environmentally conscious brands:

  • Some brands are quick to brag about what they are doing for the environment while simultaneously keeping quiet about the rest of their business that has devastating environmental consequences. You can’t take a company’s claims for face value.
  • Complete transparency is the best measurement of an environmentally conscious brand – They know their impact, are open about it, and are actively working to improve it.
  • Several environmentally conscious brands have been bought by big corporations. When a company gets absorbed it’s hard for their values and culture not to be affected, but every case is different.
  • Many corporations claim to make changes (like having zero waste facilities by 2025). It’s a good boost to their image but doesn’t mean much until they deliver and many environmentalists argue their goals aren’t aggressive enough.
  • A considerable portion of the environmental community believe large corporations aren’t doing enough. Just being better than competitors isn’t going to reverse our catastrophic environmental degradation. We need to do more and we should support the companies that actually are innovating and making a difference.

Conscious consumers and environmentally conscious brands

Conscious consumers are loyal to the environmentally friendly brands they know and trust. It’s difficult to understand the true values of a company and once a conscious consumer does their research to find trustworthy brands they rarely stray. For a conscious consumer it’s exciting to find new brands that are truly environmentally friendly. Researching and networking to find eco-friendly brands and products is a continual (sometimes frustrating) process. Below you will find a few examples and some guides to help you find environmentally conscious brands.

Why You Should Care

Every time you purchase a product you support the company that made it. Imagine if everyone stopped buying from companies that have a negative environmental impact and only bought from companies that were environmentally responsible. Vote for the world you want to see by supporting environmentally responsible brands.

Choosing not to buy is powerful too. We communicate our demands through our purchases and as brands realize the value in environmentally responsible products they will produce more to meet the demand.

This isn’t the only way to bring about change, but it is a piece of the puzzle that we all have control of. Changing your shopping habits is one of the easiest ways to show your support for a better world.

Examples of environmentally conscious brands

Patagonia – The poster child for environmental and social responsibility. Patagonia is open about their commitment to making environmentally and socially responsible products and they are transparent with their impact and improvements.

Unilever – Unilever is an example of a huge corporation working to become more sustainable (Unilever owns over 400 brands). While they are more environmentally and socially responsible than their competitors, they are far from sustainable and most environmentalists will agree they are not doing enough to reduce their impact.

Belgium Brewing – This micro-brew company is quietly working toward sustainability. They use alternative energy, recycle everything they can, and are completely transparent in their reporting. Their staff even took a pay cut so they could invest in resources to reduce the environmental footprint of their brewing facility. [link to brewing page]

Keurig – Keurig is an example of a company that boasts about their sustainability efforts while conveniently keeping quiet about the massive impact of their products. They have a nice looking sustainability section of their website, but their K-cup model is built upon a disposable, cradle-to-grave model. Their pods are not recyclable or disposable. In 2014 enough K-cups were sold, that if placed end to end would circle the globe 10.5 times.

Brand Guides for Conscious Consumers

There are several projects to help consumers support responsible brands and boycott irresponsible companies. Here are a few popular guides:

Environmental Working Group (EWG) – guide for food and household products

The Good Shopping Guide – provide rankings for a wide variety of products

Ethical Consumer – tips and guides to shopping ethically

Project Just – guide for ethical fashion