Sustainability is not an either/or proposition. Instead, it is a continuum with distinct stages. Let’s look at the various stages on the sustainability continuum. We’ll explain what each of them means and what it can mean to consumers.
1. Legal Compliance
Compliance is when a company is meeting all legally mandated standards. This may include requirements to use a certain percentage of renewable energy or recycled material in their products. Or they’re simply not violating labor and environmental laws. Unfortunately, we have to include this level in our article given how many international firms don’t meet this basic standard.
We need to include this phase because it does happen in real life. It occurs when a company labels its products as green though they are not. These firms may or may not be in compliance with the environmental laws, but they are committing fraud.
3. The Trial Phase
This should be encouraged, but it is only one step on the journey to sustainability. It occurs when a company releases its first sustainable product. Maybe they’re using recycled materials for the first time. Perhaps they’re offering items that will be reclaimed and reused instead of disposed of. It may be compostable instead of simply disposable.
4. Sustainable Materials
Sustainable materials are those that are recycled and recyclable or all-natural. Many companies use recycled or all-natural materials in their products. While this is an achievement, it is not the final level of sustainable manufacturing. For example, a company could go back to manufactured plastics or use unsustainable manufacturing methods at any point. Or they might offset their manufacturing process by paying for carbon offsets.
5. Ethical, Sustainable Products
This green product category typically includes:
Sustainable manufacturing methods
Ethically sourced materials
For example, you don’t want organic coffee if it was raised in fields full of slave labor. Nor do you want rechargeable batteries in a solar panel if mining it was done with slave labor, child labor or sold to fund wars. Note that this is an issue with blood diamonds and the coltan used to make rechargeable batteries. Ethical standards applied to the supply chain result in prioritizing purchases from local farmers of all ethnicities, especially those who are stewards of the land. It may include union labor, but it generally includes fair wages and a refusal to exploit workers.
Companies can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by promising to uphold the highest ethical standards. For example, online furniture stores that take sustainable pledges agree to maintain ethical standards in their supply chain and only use sustainable materials. Or they may raise sheep in a cruelty-free manner, giving them as much freedom as possible and never selling them for meat.
There are a variety of certifications to demonstrate the company’s quality standards. For example, the Certi-PUR certification means the memory foam used in the furniture does not include heavy metals or toxic substances like formaldehyde. The Rainforest Alliance symbol means they don’t cut down the rain forest. It can include ethically sourced hardwoods and latex from rubber plantations that double as wildlife refuges.
Article Submitted By Community Writer