By Ellie McCaldin
Want to make sure that the companies you buy from match your beliefs? Not sure who you can trust? Fret no more- here are five brands which you can rely on to champion forward thinking policies and initiatives, aimed at creating a more sustainable, equal world.
Marks & Spencer
Whilst at university, trips to Marks & Spencer - once a fairly dull morning out with the parents - transform into wonderful voyages into meccas of home comforts. Everywhere you look there are magical things: biscuits made with ‘more chocolate than biscuit’, practical underwear, cheese straws, Percy Pigs - the list goes on. The good news is, it’s also an excellent retailer for the ethically minded. The brand has won over 190 awards relating to sustainability since 2007 from organisations including Greenpeace, Ethical Consumer magazine and the Carbon Trust Award. Marks and Spencer’s plan A scheme is made up of 100 different commitments relating to becoming carbon neutral, helping communities, protecting the wildlife population and much more besides. If you yourself want to get behind the brand, take a look at their Shwopping initiative. The scheme involves sending in your old clothes for Oxfam to sell to international communities. So far 7.8 million items have been ‘shwopped’, raising an estimated £5.5 million.
Many of the most prominent ethical brands on campus are led by students. ENACTUS groups - branches of a student led society dedicated to enacting social change through enterprise - can be found in universities across the country. The organisation places a focus on creating financial stability for those in need, often by providing them with skills to develop their own brands through which to sell merchandise.
Reacting to the high figures of female re-offenders and rough sleepers in their area, ENACTUS students in Leeds sought to break the cycle of crime by empowering female offenders with up cycling skills. The students worked with the Together Women Project, a probation centre for women in Leeds, holding workshops which led to many of the women involved creating their own online shops and gaining essential skills for their CVs. The project starts up again next week so keep an eye on their Facebook (www.facebook.com/EnactusLeedsWise) page to see what the group make this year!
The HOPE project in Sheffield involves students working with victims of trafficking - teaching local women how to make and sell their own jewellery and cosmetics. The project made a profit of £822 in 2012-2013 by selling their beautifully designed pieces. Head to (www.hopesheffield.org/) to check them out for yourself.
Surprisingly for a shop which you can smell a mile away, all of Lush’s products are made from totally natural, 100% vegetarian, organic ingredients. Not only does the company work directly with suppliers to make sure ethical standards are being consistently met, they have also thrown themselves into campaigns which fight against animal testing and work to eliminate packaging. The Lush ‘naked’ initiative has led to the creation of solid shampoo bars, conditioners, henna hair colours and massage bars, a conversion which saves millions of plastic bottles from being produced, transported and thrown away every year. Where packaging cannot be eliminated altogether the company uses only recycled, recyclable or compostable materials. They also offer freebies to customers who bring packaging back to the shop to be reused.
Watermade - Sheffield
Watermade is run by a group of University of Sheffield students and works with women in Uganda who live in the Kampalan slums. The aim of Watermade is to provide these women with a UK market through which to sell their vibrant hand crafted products and clothes. Through their working partnership, the female workers of Kampala are able to sell their craft for a fair price, creating a sustainable income which can serve as a way out of poverty. The project’s focus on international development is complemented by an equal dedication to working with the local community; Watermade’s product packaging and even the shelving units used to hold their products are created partially by enterprise projects which work with people living in homeless shelters in Sheffield.
The project frequently sell their wares in the students union but those located further afield can also go online to buy at (http://watermadeuk.bigcartel.com/).
One of the easiest ways to know you are shopping ethically whilst at uni is to buy Fairtrade as often as possible. The brand has been focused on creating better working conditions, trade prices and terms of trade for over 20 years and sells over 4,500 different products. Fairtrade ensures that the small-scale farms, where their ingredients are grown and harvested, meet the Fairtrade social, economic and environmental standards. From footballs to wine, as long as you can see the Fairtrade sticker you can be safe in the knowledge that you are supporting the lives of farmers, workers and their communities and helping to create sustainable incomes for rural families.
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