Ecofriendly businesses push certifications to make their mark

Ecofriendly businesses push certifications to make their mark

There are a plethora of labels, certifications and stamps for products out there, but those wanting to prove their business’s sustainability are pushing for these to be taken seriously.

Online company Faithful to Nature recently became the first retailer in the country to receive a B Corp certification, which recognises businesses that adhere to various sustainability and accountability practices. About 4,600 companies in 72 countries are thus certified. The online store focuses on products such as health supplements and ecofriendly cleaning aids. It aims for greater sustainability by using biodegradable labels and keeping its warehouse 99% waste-free.

Head of innovation Luisa Tropartz explains that the certification not only means that they are now associated with a reputable network of similarly accredited companies globally but also that “being part of this select group is also a promise to our consumers that the improvements to our practices will be an ongoing work in progress”.

Faithful to Nature’s ecofriendly actions include what Tropartz calls “a rigorous onboarding and checking system for all products and suppliers, to make sure that their products meet our ethical and sustainable standards”. Certain ingredients are not allowed in products and the brand says its deliveries are carbon neutral. The company also partners with an organisation focused on uplifting leaders in the environmental space.

Tropartz notes that there can always be development and improvement in terms of sustainable practices. This can be tricky and requires ongoing innovation.

“We believe this pressure on big business to improve their ways of working will continue, especially as global warming becomes more topical.

“A … trade-off that one has when you place better business practices above all else is that of profit. We will often turn away suppliers or products that we know would be high-revenue drivers because they do not meet the standards we believe are required for more sustainable commercial consumption.”

Tropartz says that certifications such as B Corp create a single global standard that aligns business strategies. She believes that other businesses should adopt more plant-friendly strategies, but that increasingly environmentally friendly customers are helping to drive this change. “We believe this pressure on big business to improve their ways of working will continue, especially as global warming becomes more topical over the coming years.”

South Africa also has local branches of certification bodies. Global GreenTag predicts and assesses the environmental, social and health impacts of products across a range of markets such as beauty and cleaning. Director Lizette Swanevelder says: “Each product assessment is quantifiable and objective with different, scored levels of certification, allowing for infinite determination of which products are good, better and best.”

She says these certifications are important because “companies are under pressure to adopt environmentally responsible practices and to communicate this to their stakeholders and the public”. However, she explains that many companies use “greenwashing” strategies to hide the continued environmental impacts of their work from customers. “This a big problem for manufacturers who are doing the right thing and producing certifiable, sustainable products and materials.”

The importance of ecofriendly certifications expands into other retail sectors. EcoStandard South Africa is a label focused particularly on building materials. While there are many regulations in this sector, ecolabels are usually voluntary.

Tamryn Heydenrych, who is involved in business development and is an auditor for EcoStandard, says these labels are important because they can provide a market advantage, especially when they are verified by third parties and reliable. “EcoStandard’s certification process also helps highlight areas for improvement that can enhance a product or company’s sustainability,” she says. “This can often have unintended positive consequences, such as reduced costs, changes to resources, etc.”

Heydenrych agrees that there is growing awareness around sustainability, both for businesses and consumers. She hopes that the uptake of certifications by labels will increase. “However, this will not happen overnight and drivers such as legislation or green procurement requirements for large companies and government departments could be key in pushing this agenda,” she says. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.


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