Growing up as a millennial, I remember my entourage and relatives who couldn’t stress enough how much they believed in us, the new generation. That we were able to achieve just what we wanted to and that we could change the world we live in. As ludicrous as this still sounds to me today, they were not wrong. And it’s not only us millennials who have this power. It’s a gift (I’d even say a responsibility) that we all have, as humans, and in this case as consumers.
See, our role, as consumers who buy goods and services from third parties, goes beyond the transactional act of paying what we owe. Responsible sourcing should be among our top concerns when making a purchase. Why? Because that granola bar’s impact goes way beyond your local supermarket. And that supermarket’s impact goes way beyond its natural treats provider, whose impact also goes beyond its sourcing farmers, imported goods and transport suppliers.
Globalization = complexification of supply chains
Supply chains have become highly complex networks with numerous layers of stakeholders. These hundreds, nay, thousands of stakeholders found all around the globe are part of ongoing, transitioning relationships. New risks came with globalization and ever-changing trade regulations, which is making it even more challenging to improve sourcing standards.
Increasing visibility within supply chains requires tremendous effort, not to mention a true desire to make things change. Companies must engage with suppliers in a more focused way, and take into account critical issues (that most likely have no direct impact on their own operations) such as building safety and work conditions.
So, as a consumer, what can you do to make sure you’re contributing to improving responsible sourcing on a global scale? Buying locally produced and seasonal foods is of course one of the easiest ways to begin, if that’s accessible in your area that is. But what about restaurants, banks, consumer goods companies, internet providers, streaming services or even marketing agencies and law firms?
Where can I start my journey as a responsible consumer?
Luckily, there are several initiatives that can help you assess providers: you can search their website and see if they share their sustainable development/CSR efforts in annual reports like Apple and Google do, see if they are members of groups of organizations like 1% for the planet, or even if the product that they sell is itself a commitment to making good like Fairphone.
When it comes to services like video and music streaming (Netflix, YouTube, Spotify), online shopping (Amazon, eBay), messaging platforms (Messenger, Google Hangouts), social media (Facebook, Twitter), etc., Greenpeace’s Click Clean initiative provides an interesting annual report on energy sources and gives an overall score to providers. It even offers the possibility to take action.
B Corps: a better way of doing business
Are you familiar with B Corp Certification? It’s a global initiative by B Lab, a non-profit that certifies for-profit companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency with the B Corp seal.
“B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.”
This means that organizations that receive B Corp Certification are not only competing to be the best in the world in what they do, they also want to be the best for the world. Companies are evaluated on numerous factors, including: how they treat and take care of the environment, the working conditions and benefits they offer to staff, their involvement in local communities, how they manage their finances (are they giving back?), etc.
This movement breeds a new type of for-profit organizations that does not only have shareholders’ interests at heart, they also serve society. B Corp Certification is like a stamp of approval that helps you identify change makers who also believe we can use the power of business to tackle social and environmental challenges. In other words, it helps redefining what a successful business is: it goes way beyond profits! We could even say that the B Corp Certification is the bridge that directs companies towards good stakeholder engagement.
So far, over 2,100 companies in 50 countries and with operations across 150 industries have joined the movement. So as a consumer, a good way to join in on it is to foster the B Corp movement by supporting certified companies and urging companies you like to consider it too.
At Boréalis, good stakeholder engagement, improving community relations and mitigating environmental issues are rooted deep in what we do. Should you need a little help reporting on your CSR initiatives, don’t hesitate to reach out, we’ll be more than happy to be your partner on the journey towards better social and environmental performance!
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