“Every purchasing decision is an opportunity to make an impact,” says Ellen Jackowski, HP’s chief sustainability and social impact officer. “But for shoppers, it can be a challenge to distinguish between companies that are taking authentic action and those who are marketing sustainability as simply the latest trend.”
So how can you be sure you’re making a responsible choice when you’re choosing what to buy? Here are a few ways to get started.
Do your homework
Finding brands that are dedicated to sustainability requires more than reading labels — you may have to do some digging. Jackowski suggests looking for companies using or transitioning to 100% renewable energy, implementing effective energy and water-saving practices, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and waste. And seek out companies that demonstrate a larger commitment by partnering with independent organizations like the World Wildlife Fund or NextWave Plastics on cross-industry sustainability initiatives.
Go beyond a company’s website and social media to find specific information about its goals and progress toward achieving them. One place to look is a company’s annual sustainability report — HP released its 2019 Sustainable Impact Report last week. Look for concrete information about how a company sources raw materials, whether it works directly with small farmers or people in local communities where it operates, and how it’s making its operations as efficient as possible. “Look at how the company manages its products before, during, and after the sale,” says Jackowski. “A responsible brand will account for the entire lifecycle of its products.”
Check for credentials
You’ve likely encountered products marketed as “natural” or “green” or “sustainable” — but these buzzwords don’t really tell you much. For clarity, look for eco-label certifications, which come from credible, independent organizations to identify products and brands that are taking meaningful steps to be more sustainable.
Next time you’re shopping for groceries, check for labels like Rain Forest Alliance, Fair Trade, USDA Organic, and the gold star standard: Demeter Biodynamic. For non-food products, keep an eye out for labels including TRUE Zero Waste, FSC Certified (Forest Stewardship Council) (most of HP’s printer paper is FSC certified), B Corp, ENERGY STAR, EPEAT, Blue Angel, LEED, and Cradle to Cradle. Check the Eco Label Index directory for credible certifications across 25 industries.
Judge a product by its packaging
The U.S. alone produces 80 million tons of packaging waste per year, but this year, a surge in online shopping due to the global pandemic caused an increase in shipped products.