The holiday season is upon us. For many, this means a time of giving gifts, hosting dinners and, of course, shopping. Although we may stop by a single shop or store to make our purchases, the goods we buy for the holidays (and in general) are often made from materials sourced from all over the world, with supply chains that span the entire globe.
Businesses have a responsibility to ensure their goods are produced responsibly and sustainably, especially given the size of modern supply chains and the volume of holiday shopping. As consumers, we can do our part to create a more transparent world by supporting the businesses who choose to take steps to improve their supply chains.
When shopping, it is worth taking the time to do a quick search on your favorite brands and retailers to see what they are doing to ensure sustainable, ethical supply chains. This can be done for a variety of holiday-related goods, from the foods we buy to cook special meals to the gifts we buy for our loved ones.
- Food & beverage. Transparency is in high demand for the food industry, and businesses are responding. Major food & beverage companies such as Danone, Nestlé, and Mars have all set ambitious sustainability and social responsibility goals ranging from sustainable sourcing to reduced emissions. Many brands often publish detailed sustainability or CSR reports on their websites that showcasing their efforts to increase transparency in their supply chains. This information can be a valuable resource in determining what food and beverage products you choose to buy this holiday season. In addition, alcoholic beverage companies such as Diageo, AB Inbev, Molson Coors, and Pernod Ricard have all set long-term commitments to increase the transparency and sustainability of their supply chains. Alcoholic beverages may not immediately come to mind when we think of transparency, but as with food, these are made up of ingredients and can be held to the same standards for transparency.
- Fashion. More and more fashion businesses are taking steps to produce goods more ethically by reducing their environmental impact, ensuring fair labor practices, and sourcing more sustainable materials. As with food, information on specific initiatives can be easily found on many fashion brands’ and retailers’ websites. In addition, the non-profit Fashion Revolution produces an annual “Fashion Transparency Index,” which ranks 200 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact. Sustainable fashion is becoming more widespread—taking the time to do a bit more detailed research can help you determine which brands are taking concrete action, and which are simply greenwashing.
- Jewelry and electronics. Jewelry and electronics are popular holiday gifts, but unfortunately they are often made with the conflict minerals tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold. Today, eliminating conflict minerals altogether is a challenging task—but there are a few ways to assess whether a jewelry or electronics company is addressing the issue:
- Check on their website if they have complied with Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which asks companies to voluntarily disclose conflict minerals in their supply chains.
- Check if they are a member of the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI). The RMI “provides companies with tools and resources to make sourcing decisions that improve regulatory compliance and support responsible sourcing of minerals from conflict-affected and high-risk areas.”
- Review the Enough Project’s 2017 conflict minerals ranking report, which examines and ranks the top 20 companies in the consumer electronics and jewelry industries.
The holidays are a busy time of year, but it is becoming easier to discover what brands and retailers are doing to ensure better supply chains. By investing a bit of time, consumers can support these businesses and help pave the way towards a more ethical and sustainable future.