paper bags near wall
Questions consumers should ask

by Snigdha Sharma

January 6, 2021

Every business, big or small, wants to be associated with sustainable practices and products.

However, on digging deeper, it is often found that the accountability is only skin-deep.

This is known as greenwashing, where businesses convey a false impression of selling sustainable “eco-friendly” products, while changing nothing more than the packaging.

Sustainable products are often priced higher than regular ones. Carefully crafted marketing gimmicks target environmentally conscious customers who do not mind paying more.

To avoid such shams, it is important for consumers to understand the true meaning of sustainability and sustainable products.

Sustainability broadly stands on three legs, namely, environmental, social and economic.

Thus, when we purchase a product labelled as “sustainable”, we need to be mindful of the following:

• Who manufactures the product?

For instance, a product manufactured by a small business that supports rural communities by helping to elevate people from extreme poverty and reducing inequalities, may be considered more sustainable than one manufactured by a large enterprise that does not address these social issues.

By choosing the product manufactured by the more socially responsible business, consumers can drive other businesses to follow suit.

• What is it made of?

Is it made from a resource that is easily grown, such as bamboo, or from a waste product such as bagasse or discarded clothes?

If a product utilises non-renewable resources or if its manufacturing causes massive pollution, then it cannot be considered a sustainable product.

• Where does it come from?

Knowing the journey of the product is important.

A product manufactured sustainably, but shipped from thousands of kilometres away, might not be the most sustainable option.

In comparison, a product manufactured closer to you will have a lower carbon footprint, as the amount of fuel utilised and greenhouse gases generated are reduced.

• How much does the product contribute to waste generation?

Another important aspect is if the products form a part of a circular economy.

Unless a product can be reused, recycled, repurposed or reduced, it is not truly sustainable.

Therefore, the next time you pick up a product, don’t just go by the packaging.

Look for more details provided on the labels and for reliable third-party certifications.

Otherwise, the only thing that will be sustained is the business’ bank balance.

Snigdha Sharma

Snigdha is a doctorate in Environment Studies, she loves being around nature and continues to be fascinated by it.

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