December has sprung upon us again and with that comes the last mad rush of Christmas shopping. Shopping behaviour has seen different trends this year however, with almost every store in the UK now charging for the use of plastic bags and customers being more consciously selective with their purchases considering the supply chain. The conversations on how we are consuming the worlds resources and what we are ingesting into our bodies are frequently discussed with growing concern, but unless words become action, nothing will change or improve.
Since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016, an increasing number of businesses and individuals have been dedicated to living and operating more responsibly. Yet there is an ongoing debate as to who holds the most responsibility in reducing the effects of climate change: government bodies, corporate businesses or the public?
In a discussion at the Web Summit between Pia Heidenmark Cook (Chief Sustainability Office at IKEA Group), Lucas Joppa (Chief Environmental Officer at Microsoft), and Steve Clemons (Editor at Large of the Atlantic) about whether technology is doing enough to save the planet, an argument considered was that there is no point in being one of the largest global brands/companies if we are living in an inhabitable world. It was agreed that it is fundamentally the role of these larger corporations to drive positive change. At the same time, they discussed statistics that show that around 80% of people in Europe understand that climate change is connected to human activity, roughly 60% of whom are worried about the consequences. It also appears that around 90% of people are willing to make changes to combat climate change, as long as it is not inconvenient or more expensive for them.
A number of people have taken control of their individual environmental impact by converting to veganism, due to growing awareness of both the unethical rearing of animals as well as the extremely negative impact of meat production on the environment. While this is commendable, it is understandable that not everyone is willing or able to make this sort of adjustment in their lives. Fortunately, there are now start-ups and organisations working hard to specifically assist people in making manageable changes in their lives that will collectively bolster prominent change. For example there are new platforms such as Fair Bazaar that brings together ethically produced, locally sourced, zero-waste fashion products, making it easier for customers to make more sustainable purchases in fashion.
Another inspired, interactive option can be found with the new app by Giki Badges, a social enterprise designed to empower consumers to make better choices with ease. All the user needs to do is scan the barcode of a product, and the Giki app will rate the product in terms of sustainability. The list of criteria Giki looks for is awarded in badges:
When a consumer scans a barcode, they can see which badges the product has achieved and are consequently able to better understand how ethically the product has been produced and/or whether it is potentially harmful for their own health. If that particular product does not tick the boxes you are looking for, Giki suggests alternatives that suit your needs and are better aligned with your own values. Using this system when shopping facilitates consumers to make better choices by being better informed about what they are purchasing, with minimal effort. The concept is simple but as more people adopt this behaviour, the positive impact can be great.
The app is free to download and is something worth using while shopping, beginning with this Christmas season. It is easy to think that things like opting for something produced locally or something free from additives does not matter or make a difference, but the outcome over time is significant, both for our planet as well as our individual health.