In the last couple of years, the term “sustainability” has become more present in our day-to-day. It’s often used on ads and news, and almost every article talking about innovation or technology brings it up too.
The reason why this word is now so frequently used on media outlets is because this is where the consumers’ focus has been shifting to, and that is a wonderful thing. I always say that our dollars are our votes, so if people are willing to spend their dollars on sustainable products, then that’s what they are voting for, meaning that’s what will be offered more. This shift in consumer behaviour comes from a growing concern over the health of our planet.
It’s wonderful news that the public is concerned about such a significant topic, so when we see a product that was created with the same concern in mind, we immediately feel a connection with that product. We then tend to prioritize it in our decision-making process. This is the correct course of action from a responsible and conscious consumer.
The issue now lies on how true and accurate the claims of sustainability are. Can we believe a company when it says a product is sustainable? How can I make sure I’m not being tricked? What is sustainability after all?
Definition of Sustainability
Following a very standard nutshell definition of sustainability, it goes as: “Sustainability is the ability to maintain or support a process over time”. The process in question here though is the process of living, so we can narrow it down to this next definition, beautifully put by McGill University: “Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Human needs are basically food, water, sleep, shelter and clothing. None of these needs can be met if we don’t have a planet to stand on, so that’s where the term sustainability gets linked to environmental protection. The problem though, is that, if we only worry about something being green, we’ll end up solving a problem by creating a bunch of other problems. Sustainability is a broader concept, covering aspects other than environmental responsibility.
A sustainable action or product is one that covers aspects related to all these three areas: Environmental, Economic and Social.
Truly Sustainable Products
That’s why I always give people this example: Let’s say you buy a reusable bag made of certified organic cotton, but that was made in a sweatshop. This bag is certainly an eco-friendly product, but it is not a sustainable one. It only covers the environmental aspect, but it is harmful to human well-being. This bag basically moves a problem from the environmental side to the human side.
A sustainable product must cover both environmental and human aspects.
The bag in this example was most likely designed in an eco-friendly way just to make sure it sells, and not because the company behind it has a true and genuine concern and mission aimed at sustainability.
The economic aspect is also important, and that’s taken care of when a product is made as close to you as possible. If you purchase a bag made in Canada, for example, you are keeping more dollars in your local economy.
RATHER GREEN was conceptualized and developed following the principles mentioned in this article, covering all aspects of sustainability. Turns out that you don’t need to have a multi-million dollar budget to make a difference and implement true sustainability as an organization, anyone can do it.