Tips for Determining the Sustainability of the Companies You Buy From

Special guest post by Kate Harveston creator of the popular website So Well, So Woman


After decades of the general public viewing environmentalism and sustainability as a mere trend, the global population is finally — for the most part — realizing the importance of being friendly to the planet. With this, more and more people are starting to care about what the companies they buy from are actually doing behind the scenes. Are their production processes sustainable? What about their office buildings? Consumers want to know they aren’t supporting a business that isn’t putting in the same effort as they are to be environmentally friendly.

If you want to make sure your favorite companies truly follow environmental recommendations and guidelines, you have a lot to look out for. Here are five tips to help you determine just how dedicated the businesses you support are to sustainability.

1. Read Their Code of Ethics or Mission Statement

A good place to start your research is the company’s website — specifically, their mission statement or code of ethics. Give this page a thorough read and look out for any specific goals or practices the business makes in their sustainability endeavors.

Now, the trick here is not to fall for empty claims and references to environmentalism. Truly sustainable companies will not merely claim that they’re “green” — they’ll also provide proof of their accomplishments in the form of progress reports or audits related to factors like energy use, sourcing strategies and overall environmental impact.

2. Look for Specific Claims

Many of us have likely been victims of greenwashing, where companies will use green color schemes or images of trees or plants to insinuate they follow sustainable practices. That’s why it’s important to look for specific claims and labeling on both product packaging and a company’s website. Vague key phrases like “green,” “all-natural” and “eco-friendly” carry virtually no weight when it comes to how the item is actually made.

Instead of paying attention to these empty buzzwords, look for reputable and measurable labels, such as:

  • Fair-Trade-certified
  • Non-GMO
  • 100% recycled materials
  • Energy Star
  • USDA Organic Seal
  • Global Organic Textile Standard
  • Forest Stewardship Council
  • Green Seal

3. Consider the Source of the Materials in Their Products

If the company you’re investigating sells physical products or food items, check the materials or ingredients they use and find out where they sourced them from. If they came from very far away, the business most likely isn’t doing everything in its power to cut transportation costs and eliminate the amount of fuel and other toxins released into the air.

Companies that support local farmers and other small businesses by sourcing their materials and ingredients from close by are almost always more sustainable than big corporations and international organizations.

4. Do Some External Research

After you’ve scoured the company’s website to confirm their dedication to sustainability, you need to do some external research too. You can’t just believe everything a business posts on their site. Turn to Google to search for reputable sources that outline details about the company’s environmental impact, including the personal values of the CEO or president. Look for any past legal issues related to corporate negligence or environmental laws as well.

5. Trust in Transparency

Transparency can have many definitions in the business world. Is the company you’re researching transparent about:

  • Their finances?
  • Their shortcomings?
  • The goals they set?

If a business is open about these items, it means they value their customers and understand the desire to be informed. Companies should make it easy for the customers to find the information they’re wondering about, not difficult or confusing. Keep that in mind as you search for answers.

Don’t Fall for Greenwashing — Get to Know the Companies You Support

As a citizen, you do your part every day to practice sustainability and eco-friendliness. Why shouldn’t the businesses you shop with do the same? From now on, make it a priority to only support companies that support our planet. If everyone does this, eventually, eco-conscious businesses are the only ones we’ll have left.


About the author

Kate Harveston