What do The Body Shop, Whole Foods Market, and Ben & Jerry’s have in common? They are part of a revolution. What revolution? The branding that is sustainable consumer products. It wasn’t long ago that the sustainable consumer products market was operating mostly on the outskirts of society, in hushed dingy vitamin stores. During that time only a small portion of the overall population supported the changes that we’re now being surrounded by. Health stores, organic food, all natural products, all these words that were scarcely heard just 30 years ago, are now engulfing us with every advert and store front. It’s finally time to stop and pay attention.

statistics onSUSTAINABLE Food

Socially Responsible Products vs Sustainable Products

Socially responsible products and sustainable products are the same…right? They both are talking about helping the world in some way, and trying to make it better so they must be the same. Unfortunately you’d be wrong in thinking that. Shop with Meaning perfectly describes socially responsible products as products that have an ethical ideology or obligation to benefit society at large. These businesses help support worthy social causes and charitable organizations through socially responsible business models that raise donations, funding and/or supplies to help solve today’s most important social problems.

In comparison to socially responsible products sustainable products provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health, welfare, and environment over their full commercial cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to final disposition.

Take Ben & Jerry’s for example. On their website they have their main goals as a company outlined, and these goals include:

  • By definition, the manufacturing of products creates waste. We strive to minimize our negative impact on the environment.
  • Supporting sustainable and safe methods of food production that reduce environmental degradation, maintain the productivity of the land over time, and support the economic viability of family farms and rural communities.
  • We seek and support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice. We believe government resources are more productively used in meeting human needs than in building and maintaining weapons systems.
  • We strive to show a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.

Sounds great, right? It doesn’t stop there. They also are responsible for including fairtrade, focusing on climate control, energy conservation, responsible packing, community engagement/action, animal welfare, and so much more. These are all factors that make the difference between socially responsible products and sustainable products.

What is Sustainability in the Global Food Market?

First thing first let’s break down the basics. Overall, sustainable food takes into account things such as environmental precautions, health, social & economic concerns, and consists of eight inter-related principles.  Although most food ventures do not meet all of the principles below, it is the overall goal and aspiration of most food market businesses. The eight inter-related principles are:

  1. Local and seasonal
  2. Organic and sustainable farming
  3. Maximize welfare standards
  4. Excludes fish species identified as at risk
  5. Fair-trade-certified products
  6. Promote health and well-being
  7. Food democracy
  8. Reduction of waste and packaging

Challenges Facing Sustainable Food Market

According to WWF by 2050 we will see an increase of more than 2 billion people globally. With this rise of people there will a rise of higher incomes and a greater demand for not only more food, but more livestock-based foods such as beef, pork, poultry and dairy. Agriculture currently uses vast amounts of natural resources, which have significant environmental impacts across the globe. Going forward with increased production to meet growing needs, we must optimize the use of resources within our grasp, that protect and enhance ecosystems, and that are resistant to the impacts of climate change.

Why Does This Matter?

We only have one Earth. It seems so obvious to say, but important to remember. Buying sustainable products means you’re buying products that are not only better for you, but better for the world we’re living in. Granted as a consumer you will probably have to pay more money for these products, but what you’re giving the community and environment in return is well worth the cost.

Meghan Griffith

International Trade Associate – World Trade Centre Dublin

10 April 2016