Your buying decisions DO make a difference!
It is #SocialEnterpriseDay and we want to join #WhoKnew – a global digital campaign designed to give social enterprises the chance to tell their stories, show what makes them different from traditional businesses and shout about the impact of their work.
As project coordinators of E.D.E.E.Y., we use every opportunity to promote social entrepreneurship among young Britons who, let’s face it, will have no choice but to address the social and environmental challenges that we are leaving them behind.
In 1 minute, Google trends will compare the popularity of these search terms over the last 5 years.
After this ‘in-depth’ research I started my online class asking highschool students to mention their favourite social enterprise. Ready to engage in heated debates about The Body Shop and Innocent Drinks, I was faced with deafening silence. After a few similar experiences I started to wonder: how is this possible? Generation Z is all about social and environmental awareness and The Guardian tells me ethical spending is hitting record highs!
My hypothesis is that ‘ethical spending’ is a wide concept that includes vegan diets, free range eggs and electric cars and although my students may not be familiar with social enterprise as a concept, they were interested in supporting these businesses using their purchasing power. This experience has inspired me to write this blog post, to provide them with specific alternatives to shop ethically and support social enterprises until they are old enough to create their own (more on this later).
A few general shopping tips …
- Be aware of greenwashing! A lot of brands are making all sorts of exaggerated ethical claims, especially regarding their sustainability. Always read the small print, that eco wool may only be 10% of your product.
- Keep an eye out for these logos anywhere you are shopping as they indicate a ethical component
The following list does not endorse specific ethical brands, they are market places or online directories where you can find different products or services. It is far from from exhaustive and if you would like to suggest more alternatives, please feel free to get in touch!
Social Enterprise UK is a global authority on social enterprise and the biggest network of social enterprises in the UK.
Their Buy Social Directory can be used by individual consumers as well as the public/private sector, so if you are looking to make a purchase and want to buy from a social enterprise, you should start here.
- They help develop social enterprises throughout supply chains and they are the organisation behind the Buy Social Corporate Challenge – an initiative that aims to help a group of high-profile businesses to collectively spend £1 billion with social enterprises through their procurement.
- They also conduct research into and campaign/lobby on behalf of the social enterprise sector, raise awareness for the sector and the people/organisations within it and work to build a social enterprise network through membership.
Other alternatives to shop a wide range of products can be found below:
- You can buy: Essentials such as soap, masks and toothbrushes, books & music, gifts, clothes & accessories, home and garden products.
- Ethics: UK Charity. Revenue from the shop provides income for Amnesty and other affiliated good causes. Their ethical buying policy means that the majority of products are organic, recycled, fairly traded, educational or eco-friendly.
- Shipping: Mainland UK only.
- You can buy: Jewelry, clothing, accessories, books & magazines, sports & swimwear, homeware, toiletries & cosmetics, tea & coffee, chocolate, gifts, artwork & prints.
- Ethics: Social Enterprise. This online shop uses social enterprise suppliers that create opportunities for disadvantaged people and keep sustainability in mind. They strive to dismantle poverty through social trading, creating ‘a place to indulge in guilt free retail therapy’.
- Shipping: UK and internationally.
- You can buy: Food& drink and other items normally found in supermarkets, insurance, legal services, funerals and prescriptions.
- Ethics: Co-operative, social procurement, sustainable and donate to good causes. Their commitment to buying ethical produce means that all products are sustainably sourced and they support Fairtrade and local suppliers. They are working to further reduce waste and use energy more efficiently. They also campaign to improve labour standards, support water charities and donate to local causes through their Local Community Fund. They have their own charity – The Co-op Foundation – and aim to strengthen communities by offering fairer access to food, mental wellbeing support, and education and employment for young people.. They are partnered with a number of mental wellbeing and youth organisations such as Mind UK and the Rio Ferdinand Foundation.
- Shipping: They offer home delivery in the UK, plus a click and collect service. They also offer a wide range of stores so this is one of the most convinient ways to support social enterprises and fair trade products.
- You can buy: you can’t buy directly from Eco Businesses, but they provide users with a directory of ethical and sustainable businesses. They also detail the effort that companies are making to be ethical, and provide tools that allow you to compare businesses. They also have offers, coupons and deals for these businesses available to search too.
- Ethics/sustainability: Unclear business model. They aim to help consumers to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce waste and reduce environmental damage. All businesses listed have sustainable and ethical principles at the core of their business or are making strides to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
- Shipping: You can search businesses by the UK city/postcode they deliver to.
- You can buy: You can’t buy from Ethical Consumer directly, but they provide product guides, ethical rankings and company profiles, providing the consumer with the information needed to make informed ethical choices. They provide info on the ethics of products such as clothing, food and drink, health and beauty, home and garden and technology as well as financial services, travel, and energy suppliers.
- Ethics: Not-for-profit, Coop. They aim to help you use your spending power to help change the world for the better, providing all the tools and resources you need to make informed purchasing choices.
- Shipping: n/a
- You can buy: Calendars, Clothing, Gifts, Home, Kids, Books & Music – this store is particularly useful for buying presents.
- Ethics: The Ethical Shop is a webshop, supported by a paper catalogue, that is owned and managed by New Internationalist Publications Ltd. Products meet one or more of the following values: Eco Friendly, Educational, Fair Trade, Organic, Recycled, Made in the UK. You can search by value or cause as well as by product.
- Shipping: They ship both to the UK and internationally.
- You can buy: Groceries and everyday items, cleaning & household products, fashion, home & garden, beauty & wellbeing, baby & child, toys, gifts and pet products.
- Ethics: Social Enterprise, sustainable, Fairtrade. They strive to find eco-friendly alternatives to everyday items that do as little harm to the environment as possible. They help farmers and small businesses primarily in developing countries by offering fairly traded goods. They also give UK based brands a platform to sell products utilising local resources and cutting carbon emissions through import. All products either hold a certification from bodies such as The Soil Association, the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation and the Energy Savings Trust or have been verified by ethical superstore themselves. You can shop by ethics as well as by product e.g. you can filter so that only recycled products or only cruelty free products show up.
- Shipping: UK and Republic of Ireland only.
- You can buy: Unique and handmade bags, jewelry & accessories, stationary, books & music, gifts, body care and toiletries.
- Ethics: Fair trade, social enterprise. They are an online gift shop that exclusively stock fairtrade items from the developing world. All products have been accredited by either The British Association for Fair Trade Shops & Suppliers (BAFTS), The World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), or the Fairtrade Foundation. They also make an effort to be sustainable, reusing packaging where possible and recycling waste. They donate a percentage of their profits to The Zuri Foundation – a charity that helps young people break out of poverty in Kenya.
- Shipping: Their online shop only processes UK orders, but they will quote for international orders.
- You can buy: Good Market has built a huge directory of social enterprises from all over the world, selling a diverse range of products from food & drink to cleaning products, fashion to toys, etc.
- Ethics: Social enterprise hub. Not just a platform for making ethical purchases, but ‘a curated community of social enterprises, cooperatives, responsible businesses, voluntary initiatives, networks, and changemakers’. All sellers listed on their site must at the least meet a set of minimum ethical standards that are detailed here.
- Shipping: Since it is an international platform, some ship to the UK and some don’t. You can filter by location using their marketplace search tools.
- You can buy: You can’t buy from them directly, but they compare and offer information on the ethical rankings of world leading brands. Their guides cover everything from energy suppliers to fashion to pet food to coffee shops or supermarkets to news organisations. They also blog about ethical issues/brands in depth and showcase ethical companies.
- Ethics/Sustainability: Social enterprise directory, educating consumers. They enable consumers to make ethical consumer choices and report on a range of environmental, animal welfare and human rights issues. They have been granted an Ethical Accreditation Award.
- Shipping: n/a.
- You can buy: A selection of vegan, natural and sustainable essentials from over 100 independent ethical and zero-waste brands.
- Ethics/Sustainability: Cruelty free, vegan, sustainable, social enterprise. Their products are vegan and are made from recycled and eco friendly materials. They post products plastic free and work with zero-waste brands. They donate 10% of profits to Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary. You can shop by principle (e.g. compostable, fairly traded, recycled materials, small brand).
Shipping: UK only.
- You can buy: Gifts, accessories and jewelry, kids clothes, toys, health and wellness products, homeware- particularly suitable for buying presents.
- Ethics: Fair trade. They aim to reduce poverty in poor areas through trading more fairly. They also source sustainably, promote equality and educate consumers.
- Shipping: delivers to mainland UK.
- You can buy: Clothing & accessories for men, women and children, books & music, toys & games, homeware, gifts, cards, art & art supplies, cameras & other photography equipment, sewing materials, stationary and collectables.
- Ethics: UK Charity, fair trade. They sell fair trade and sustainably sourced products and 100% of their profits go back into their international work overcoming poverty. They believe in paying people a fair wage and a decent price for their goods and giving workers a say in the future of their company. They work with women around the world to help fight the discrimination and violence that keeps women in poverty, and work with UK businesses who share their values to create job opportunities.
- Shipping: UK delivery on all products, International delivery available on Second Hand and Unwrapped items but not on Sourced by Oxfam items.
- What you can buy: Fair Trade, Eco-friendly, Ethical & Recycled Gifts.
- Ethics: Fair trade. They aim to improve the livelihoods of disadvantaged people in developing countries, benefit local community projects and keep alive traditional skills that would otherwise be lost. They ensure that their suppliers are given a fair price and are working in good conditions, provide advice on design and product development and support the local communities of their suppliers. Many of their products are made from recycled/sustainable materials.
- Shipping: UK only for the time being.
- You can buy: You can’t buy from them directly, but they offer a directory featuring exclusively independently accredited social enterprises that meet recognised standards of good practice. They not only list places you can buy ethical products, but also sign post other social enterprises like community initiatives, service providers, leisure facilities and educational organisations.
- Ethics: Social enterprise directory and accreditation authority. As well as sign posting social enterprises they display social impact evidence, which demonstrates how these organisations benefit people and the planet.
- Shipping: n/a.
- You can buy: over 1,000 products from food, drink, accessories and gifts – from handbags made from decommissioned fire hoses, soap made by people with visual impairments or award-winning relishes made with wonky fruit and veg.
- Ethics: Social enterprise marketplace. They are partnered with over 80 impact led partners across the UK. They use Good Market to assess their environmental and social impact using a range of criteria from supply chain to quality of material. Each product has icons that indicate its social or environmental impact, so that customers can be clear on its impact.
- Shipping: Delivers to UK and Europe.
- What you can buy: homeware and garden products, cupboard foods and confectionery, tea and coffee, clothes, household products, gifts and stationary.
- Ethics: Social Enterprise, fair trade. They are advocates for the importance of organic farming, sustainability and saving vanishing traditional skills from extinction. All their products are sustainable, ethical and/or fair trade.
- Shipping: UK only.
Food and Drink
Recent years have seen an increase in consumption of ethical food products. In one 2018 survey, more than 64% of participants stated that they had made some dietary decisions for environmental or animal welfare reasons in the past year. In a 2019 study, nearly 65% of UK consumers said they were willing to pay more for food products that are more ethical.
- You can buy: While you cannot buy directly from The Fairtrade Foundation, they have created a list of fairtrade products and where you can go to find them.
- Ethics: All products displaying the fairtrade mark have been produced in decent working conditions by farmers and workers who have been paid a fair price and given fair terms of trade. They have also been produced in a way that is mindful of local sustainability.
- Shipping: n/a.
- You can buy: Affordable food that would have otherwise gone to waste.
- Ethics: Aims to reduce and eliminate food waste. Takes unwanted food from companies that would’ve thrown it away and sells it to the public at otherwise discounted prices.
- Shipping: You can buy through the app and collect from stores signed up to the company in your area.
- You can buy: Packaging free food, household items such as cleaning products and bathroom products, eco friendly reusable containers. They stock over 420 products from vegan and organic ranges.
- Ethics: Sustainable, waste free, social enterprise. Online plastic-free UK bulk store that aims to help customers significantly reduce their plastic load and make zero waste and bulk foods shopping accessible to everyone. Their packaging is minimal and plastic free, and they also allow you to send in your own reusable containers.
- Shipping: UK only.
- You can buy: Smartphones, replacement parts, Headphones, charging cables etc.
- Ethics: Sustainability, social enterprise. Create sustainable and affordable smartphones.The phones are built with responsibly sourced materials and longevity in mind, so it is easy to repair them and replace their parts.
- They are the first and only Fairtrade gold certified smartphone company, and have a gold EcoVadis sustainability rating, putting them in the top 1% of the smartphone industry for social responsibility and sustainability.
- Shipping: Ships to UK and Europe.
Awareness of the environmental and ethical impact of fast fashion has increased in recent years, leading to an increase in ethical buying. In 2017, the market for ethical clothing in the UK grew by 19.9% and for second-hand clothing by 22.5%. The market for organic and fairtrade cotton has reached an estimated total of £42m.
Similarly, consumers have become more aware of the importance of cruelty-free products and of the environmentally damaging chemicals often involved in the production of beauty products, leading to a 10.8% increase in sales of ethical cosmetics.
- You can buy: sustainable and ethical fashion pieces from over 60 international brands.
- Ethics/sustainability: They support businesses that share our environmental and human rights values, and we believe that the best materials are those that do not cause harm to people, animals, or the environment.Therefore, they carefully select brands that use sustainable materials and have one or several eco certifications.
- Shipping: Worldwide delivery.
- You can buy: Zero Waste/Plastic free beauty and bathroom products, ethically sourced/sustainable fashion, eco-essentials for living on-the-go low impact lives e.g. reusable coffee cups.
- Ethics: Sustainability. Ensure their workers throughout the supply chain are paid a fair living wage and are protected. Aim to educate and give tips on living a low-impact life. All their products are sustainably sourced and they sell many products that will enable their customers to reduce the waste they produce.
- Shipping: UK only.
- You can buy: You don’t buy from Project Cece directly, they are a search engine for ethical and sustainable fashion, compiling over 100 ethical fashion stores and well over 200 fair trade brands.
- Ethics: Sustainable. Points towards fashion brands that do not have a dreadful environmental footprint or humanitarian cost. Every garment fits into one or more of the following categories: Vegan, Fair Trade, Eco-Friendly, Locally Produced, or Good Cause. You can filter your search results by category.
- Shipping: UK and Europe.
Due to growing concern about climate change, more consumers are turning to renewable energy. In 2017, green energy tariffs grew an impressive 56.3%.
- You can buy: Renewable gas and electricity
- Ethics: Sustainability. They are the UK’s first 100% renewable electricity supplier. Donates money to a variety of community projects around the UK and supports projects that improve access to clean, green energy around the world. Supports clean technology and helps to get more electric vehicles on the road.
- Shipping: UK Supplier.
- You can buy: Electricity
- Ethics: Sustainability, Community. Gets green electricity from renewable generators in the UK with certificates verifying its origin. The company is still new, but they will put money back into the community and give back to customers when they start to turn a profit.
- Shipping: UK Energy supplier
With more and more press and campaign attention focused on the ‘dirty investments’ of big banks, consumers are increasingly aware that they can and should ensure their money isn’t going into problem sectors such as fracking.
Alternative ethical banks saw an estimated market growth share of 21.2% in 2017 (Co-op Bank excluded due to continued recovery from their 2015 crash). Furthermore, Building Societies – which are increasingly viewed as another ethical alternative – have enjoyed consistent market growth since 2014.
- You can buy: Savings accounts and loans.
- Ethics: Funds social enterprise and charity. They use the money their savers entrust to them to make loans to charities, social enterprises and organisations with charitable purposes – organisations that often wouldn’t have been able to secure a loan elsewhere.
- Shipping: Provides services in the UK.
- You can buy: They do not offer a current account, but they do offer a range of savings accounts, mortgages and loans.
- Ethics: Sustainability, environment. They are a green mortgage provider, loaning money to those looking to make green improvements on their home or to build an environmentally friendly house from scratch. They also loan to projects that respect the environment and support sustainable communities, transparently funding them through their savings accounts.
- Shipping: Provides services in the UK.
- You can buy: personal, business and charity current account, as well as a range of savings and investment accounts.
- Ethics: sustainability, community investment, affordability, social enterprise. Their mission is ‘to help create a society that protects and promotes quality of life and human dignity for all’. They do this by only financing companies that focus on people, the environment or culture, and have invested more than £6 billion to projects across Europe. They are completely transparent about where they invest, with all details of the organisations they lend to published here.
- Shipping: They offer services across Europe, but which services are available may vary country to country.
Electric vehicles delivered record sales figures in the UK in 2020 despite the global pandemic. Battery and plug-in hybrid cars and vans seized more than 10 percent of total market share while petrol and diesel sales plunged.
However, the move from combustion engine to electric power isn’t entirely free of ethical problems. The cobalt needed to produce these batteries is largely sourced from mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where concerns about human rights abuses have been raised. Many mines use child labour, and the miners often work in poor conditions for unfair wages.
- You can buy: Pure electric and hybrid cars.
- Ethics: Sustainability, ethical treatment of workers. Volvo has won awards for ethical business practice, and has one of the most ambitious sustainability plans in the car industry – they aim to reduce their CO2 emissions per car by 40 percent by 2025, be climate neutral by 2040, and use 25% recycled plastics in cars by 2025. Furthermore, Volvo has introduced blockchain technology to ensure it can trace the cobalt used in the batteries of their electric and hybrid cars, and they are working with a non-profit in DRC to help protect miners.
Shipping: Volvo retail worldwide.
As you can see the world is full of ethical altenatives that you can support by choosing to shop with them.
Have you ever considered setting up your own enterprise but thought that you are too young to become an entrepreneur?
Watch Akshay Ruparelia explain how he started his online business when he was just 17 years-old whilst studying for his A-levels and acting as a carer for his deaf parents!
Congratulations you made it this far!
You have shown interest in ethical business and ambition to make it happen. E.D.E.E.Y. for young and social enterprise offers free training on business planning, access to finance, how to set up and manage a social enterprise, how to market your products and communicate your impact and much more. Register today at edeey.eu
For more information about edeey.eu or to contribute to this article please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Blog first published on the 19/11/2020 last update on 07/04/2021.