Making Sustainable Mainstream… Or Not?

By Thomas Panton

It should be easy to build a sustainable brand and business in the year 2022 right? Maybe not as easy as you'd expect.

With the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic thankfully behind us, we're starting to once again focus on the other crises that have been knocking very loudly at our collective doors for decades.

Yes, I am of course talking about the climate crisis.

With 2021 being another hottest year on record, and devastating weather events across the globe, it's hard to feel hopeful.

However, slowly but surely, governments and perhaps more importantly, businesses, are taking note of the situation and beginning to take action.

But what does it take to be a 'sustainable' business in 2022, and how easy is it to achieve?

Person standing with a tote bag holding a coffee cup

The Problem of Greenwashing

There are lots of companies and big brands that have absolutely mastered the skill of 'greenwashing' – branding something as sustainable and misleading people when it's not.

Greenwashing makes it very hard to distinguish the truly sustainable businesses from the smokescreens put out by some of the biggest polluters.

Even oil and gas companies have managed to fool well-meaning individuals into believing they care about the environment. We're talking about companies that drill for oil here – how much more blatant can you be?

How Do You Spot a Sustainable Company?

While there are companies like Amazon, ASOS, BP and Shell that are pulling the metaphorical wool over the eyes of the public, there are plenty that are actually doing good and holding true to their promises.

There are hundreds of various certifications, labels, and badges that a business can proudly show off.

But not all of these have meaning. As we set up Canopey we found plenty that are thinly-veiled ways of ticking a box.

Even B Corp, one of the best certifications you can get as a company, has been in the news a lot recently for all the wrong reasons, after a number of employees from big B Corp company Brewdog spoke out about issues they had with the company's culture.

Of course, that doesn't totally discredit the amazing work that organisations like B Corp have done and continue to do, but it does raise questions around trusting these marks or labels when issues like this don't get picked up in the assessments.

Asking the Hard Questions

Certifications and labels like B Corp can really highlight the complicated nature of setting up a sustainable business.

There are the financial questions – who do you bank with? What does your bank invest your money into? Who are your investors?

Then there are the day to day questions. Who do you host your website and emails with? How do you print your business cards? If you have company IT equipment, can you ensure it's been made ethically?

Then there are the real nitty-gritty sustainability questions – what's your recycling policy? Are you carbon negative or do you offset carbon? And what does carbon negative mean?!

The list goes on.

Transparency Is Key

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg but these are the questions we're asking ourselves every step of the way.

We'll be exploring all these topics and more as we grow, and if there's anything we're certain about it's that we'll be transparent about it along the way.

For now, make sure you sign up to our email newsletter and follow us on social media. And importantly, help us spread the word.

The world of retail is going to be shaken up, and this is just the start.