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The Best UK Sustainable Marketplaces To Sell With

By Thomas Panton

As many of us in the world of sustainability know, awareness and demand for ethically-sourced and made products has skyrocketed over the last 20 years.

The ethical consumer industry in the UK has grown four times faster than the mainstream consumer industry, with a whopping 1000% growth overall in the last two decades. It’s left a £10bn UK market for sustainable consumer packaged goods, and it’s therefore no surprise that multiple platforms and marketplaces have popped up, aiming to meet growing consumer demand.

But as more solutions appear, it’s becoming more complicated for both consumers and brands to know which are doing their homework.

Nearly 50% of consumers find it too complicated to even try to shop sustainably - and that’s not even considering those people who try but then give up – and we get it.

So why have we launched yet another platform, and why should brands choose to join Canopey, The Home For Buying Better®?

Current Marketplaces: The Good, The Bad, And The Greenwash

It’s important to note that lots of platforms have specific things that customers love - from their brand to their photography, from their founder story to their product offering.

There’s rarely a ‘one size fits all’ solution and there’s plenty of space for competing options. multiple businesses offering similar products – just look at how the reusable coffee cup market has exploded since KeepCup (one of our brands) started back in 2007. And even huge behemoth companies like Amazon have competitors.

But the ethical consumer market is young and thriving. It’s growing quickly with lots of people hungry for their own piece of the pie. But whilst intentions may be good, strong standards don’t always follow, and they’re creating more confusion for shoppers – which is bad for your business, too.

Meanwhile the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is responding by bringing in new regulation. The Green Claims Code was published to help it clamp down on misleading claims, for example, and it has already started investigating companies like Unilever over deliberately misleading consumers with its green claims.

And these consequences are coming for startups and small businesses – which is why it may not be wise working with those that flout the future of the ethical consumer industry and continue to mislead shoppers.

Someone on a laptop which has a shopping website on the screen

What Should Mission Driven Brands Look For In An Ethical Marketplace?

There are so many options for brands to choose from when it comes to omnichannel selling, and it can be overwhelming.

Almost all brands looking for other sales channels are weighing up the cost-benefit of being on that platform which can lead to a huge headache. From pricing and commissions, to prospective sales growth from each new platform.

For many brands this means avoiding marketplaces altogether and just going down the retail/whole and DTC routes – a totally understandable decision based on the complicated market they have to navigate.

This gets even more complicated for mission-driven brands that not only want to sell their products and grow as a company, but also want to make sure that the partners they work with align with their values. Importantly, you never want your brand’s reputation to be negatively impacted by a company that doesn’t have the same standards as you do.

Across the ethical consumer market, almost all ethical marketplaces are offering one thing and one thing only – an extra sales channel.

Group of people at a Canopey event sitting on benches

The Added Value Marketplaces Could Bring (But Often Don’t)

Ultimately it’s all about listing your product on a marketplace which does drop shipping – that’s it. For the commission asked this can feel like a hefty ask: anywhere between 15-45% commission, for…what?

No community, not added value, and no respect for your brand, which you’ve worked hard to build in order to create a positive impact. It’s only fair to expect the same from the platforms you work with.

We don’t think that’s fair and we’ve always wanted to offer more.

Canopey’s Sustainability Value-Add

One of the instant advantages of Canopey is that we already verify the green claims – using evidence – of all brands that sell with us.

It was always our intention to expand into the world of verification marks and green certifications in the future. But since we have been doing this work to verify each brad, and in a way that is more comprehensive than many other marketplaces we know of, it made sense to offer our own certification mark free of charge to any brand onboarding with us.

This is an instant win for your brand: on top of a comprehensive sales channel with a strong brand, you also get access to a third-party umbrella mark for your own site and marketing, to demonstrate to your customers that you’ve been verified. It’s a no brainer.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Canopey Kitemark, I wrote more about it here.

The other main add value for our vendors is giving you more data than ever before. Our powerful Impact Calculator produces comprehensive reports, showing the CO2e, water, and plastic saved per sale. It’s completely unique to us as a marketplace and goes beyond a simple CO2 estimate, which doesn’t tell the full story.

The long term aim here is to provide our brands with data for all their sales channels – an incredibly exciting roadmap which could be a game-changer especially for smaller brands looking to demonstrate their positive impact.

Group of people at a Canopey event talking

Canopey’s Strong Vendor Community

We’re also building a strong community for our vendors and partners. It’s one of the big criticisms we hear about other ethical marketplaces: you don’t hear from them unless there’s a problem, and you certainly don’t get any sense of community or extra value. We’re in regular contact with our brands, have a monthly newsletter, and have started chat where we share regular insights, opportunities and share knowledge – all for free.

If you’ve worked with SaaS companies or even traditional service-based companies, you’ll know that they often build a huge bank of perks and discounts for their partners. We do the same. We want our brands to get the value we do, and we want our partners to work with our amazing brands. Another no-brainer!

And finally, obviously if you know Canopey, you know we don’t do half measures with our marketing campaigns. I’m not joking: we built a ~10ft tall greenwashing machine and took it round London calling out major retailers for greenwashing!

A giant mode of a green washing machine

We are proud to include the brands that join us under the canopy to be a part of these campaigns. Not only that, we partner with great organisations like City to Sea and run campaigns where our brands can get involved too. And we do regular photoshoots, and allow our brands to use imagery and videos – all for free.

What I’m saying is that being part of Canopey isn’t just a transactional relationship. We’ve nurtured our community of mission-driven brands, and brought them along for the ride with us to build the ultimate canopy for ethical consumerism.

So What Is The Best Ethical Marketplace?

Well, we’ll let you decide, but hopefully the above gives a really good overview of what we’re doing under the Canopey to drive forward the ethical consumer market and provide extra value for both consumers and for mission driven brands.

Ultimately, if we can continue to push the boundaries of what it means to be a marketplace, and really present an ethical and valuable experience for all our partners and stakeholders, then we can change the face of the consumer industry for good.