With headlines calling for sustainable action, appearing on our screens almost daily, taking care of our planet has become a matter of urgency.
Many of us are doing well to embrace at-home green initiatives such as recycling, reusable shopping bags, composting and saving energy. But what about the retailers you choose to buy from, or the products and services you use, and the company you work for? Do you know if they’re monitoring and reducing their impacts, and their supplier impacts too?
Being green doesn’t stop at home, it involves your choice as consumers too. However, without transparency, understanding a business’s authenticity around sustainability and determining if their values align with yours is not always easy.
Increasing climate-related events and the pandemic are making more of us rethink our priorities and habitual behaviours, and the type of world we want to live in. More of us are choosing to buy from ethical brands and retailers, and we’re willing to pay more for sustainably produced and eco-friendly products.
With experts predicting that people’s purchasing behaviours are changing for the better, more and more businesses are realising the importance of being socially and environmentally responsible and are making it easier for their customers to make sustainable choices.
Consumer pressure for sustainable change
Currently, 72 percent of Kiwis believe brands and retailers have a responsibility to make a positive change in the world (Ernst & Young). You’re putting brands under pressure to implement better practices and make it easier for you to buy sustainably. Already, about half of Kiwi households have intentionally switched to a brand or service provider which is more sustainable (Colmar Brunton). Ka pai Aotearoa!
Of course, making an informed choice on a brand, product or service would be easier if every business was transparent. Thankfully, there are organisations that help businesses to comply to sustainable standards. For example, we only stock fish or krill products from certified suppliers who guarantee commitment to international marine sustainability groups, and all of our supplier partners have to meet our ingredient, ethical, and environmental standards.
Larger supermarkets and retailers, including HealthPost, are also including sustainability requirements into their policies on what they buy, and from whom. And companies that bring sustainably aligned goods and services to market at a reasonable cost, are seeing the upsides.
“Our purpose and intent of business was never about maximum profit for shareholders, it was always about the broader impacts. As a family-held business that’s had its roots in the same community for over 30 years, our decisions and actions have always had to justify themselves from a holistic perspective. I guess that’s reflective of who we are and what we want to see in the world,” says Lucy Butler, our Executive Director and Sustainability Lead.
So, when it comes to making ethical choices, how do you know which brands are authentic and which ones aren’t? One start would be to see if they meet certification measures and standards that help ethical businesses to set themselves apart - such as Zero Carbon, Living Wage, and B-corporation. And while not every brand might be able to meet these certifications just yet, what are they committed to and striving towards? Are their sustainability goals shared with their community, and are they concrete and measurable?
These certifications and commitments can help consumers to distinguish ethical businesses that balance purpose and profit from those that don’t.
Why is transparency important?
As a natural wellness retailer, we take your health and wellbeing seriously. We research and carefully evaluate all of our brands on their ingredients, processes, and values, so you can shop with confidence knowing that we’ve assessed the impacts on people and the planet.
Before we consider stocking a new brand, we ask a number of questions to understand whether the brand meets our value alignment standards. Our Mindful Brand Committee then holistically assess these results to determine whether they are recognised as Mindful Brands - meaning they go above and beyond in our four mindful values of Eco Packaging, Transparency, Environmental Sustainability, and Social Responsibility. Sadly, many organisations are not as transparent.
“It does upset me when people who are genuinely motivated to take the time to make a better choice are fed misinformation,” says Lucy.
“Often because the producer of the product hasn’t dug deep enough to understand what the holistic impacts are, and what they’re actually doing. Also, many underestimate what customers are actually willing to get their heads around. Thankfully, all of these areas are rapidly evolving, so we’re continually revisiting, refining, and improving our product range as better products become available.”
“We are proud that we are able to partner with many beautiful brands who live and breathe a really holistic approach to what they do. Identifying and helping these small businesses to tell their story and exposing them in front of 200,000 customers who also care is so powerful and one of the things I find most inspiring about what we do.”
Authenticity builds trust
In addition to enabling an informed choice, transparency also helps to build trust and allows for authentic relationships with our team, customers, and brand partners. Earning your trust through aligned values is why we invest in measurement and monitoring frameworks that have high ethical and sustainable performance standards.
“It is unusual, particularly for a small to medium enterprise like us, to question our supply partners, packaging providers and logistics partners about their inputs and processes,” says Lucy.
“Many of our loyal customers understand and appreciate that we want to do this depth of work and research so that they don’t have to. At the same time, we don’t gloss over complex issues. We care about empowering our customers with good information to make educated choices.”
By monitoring and measuring our impacts, we’ve reduced our waste and carbon emissions and are now certified Zero Carbon. We generate our own electricity with over 70 photovoltaic panels at our Collingwood office, and we offset unavoidable emissions by investing in government registered local indigenous forest projects – including our own carbon forest sink in Golden Bay.
At HealthPost, one of the important ways we care for our people is by being Living Wage certified, and we carefully consider the impact of our business decisions on our team and community. Being a values-led organisation not only helps us to align with customers who put values first, it also attracts quality staff and partners who want to work with us.
Of course, we care deeply for our local environment too and, so far, we’ve committed over $1.35m to support social and environmental causes in Aotearoa and beyond. Thanks to your loyalty, we're able to donate $100,000 to the HealthPost Nature Trust every year to help restore and protect native habitats and ecosystems at Farewell Spit, in our Wharariki Ecosanctuary, and surrounding areas.
Starting on your sustainable journey
Creating a mindful business
When deciding to adopt sustainable practices - whether it’s a genuine desire to care for people and planet, or to meet consumer demand for better outcomes – your business needs to measure its impact before determining how to implement change.
Organisations including the Sustainable Business Network, Ekos (Zero Carbon), Living Wage, and B Corporation can help you to implement sustainable improvements in your business processes and to see where improvements can be made. It’s a rigorous exercise, but worthwhile and important.
Before you can make change and adopt more sustainable behaviours, a business must understand what is involved in the delivery of the product or service provided – from the origins of ingredients to the freight of the package to the customer. This means building aligned relationships with all your suppliers and brand partners.
In 2019, we achieved B Corp certification for our BioBalance brand, and we’re currently working to get HealthPost to be a certified B Corp business. With 300 brands and over 5500 products, it’s a big job, but with our Mindful Brands we’re lucky that we already have a head start.
Making mindful choices when you shop
Making mindful decisions when shopping can be difficult, but here are some great tips to help get you started:
- Do your homework and ask questions. Start by investigating a handful of your favourite brands and build your knowledge and awareness from there.
- Research the brand’s values. If you can’t find an answer, ask them. If it’s difficult to find out their stance, perhaps they’re not as eco-conscious as they may appear.
- Choose products with natural ingredients and eco packaging.
- Prepare to change your mindset. Sustainably produced products are often wonderful products, with natural wholesome goodness.
- Go to your farmers market and buy locally grown, fresh and organic produce wherever possible.
- Consider buying second hand instead of new and donate your unwanted items.
- Less is more. Buy good quality products made from natural and durable materials. They will stand the test of time.
- Some products have added ingredients or come wrapped in plastic that’s difficult to recycle. Check if there are more natural options available, or if can you make it yourself at home.
- Bring your reusable bags, and if supplied, use paper bags supplied for fruit, vegetables, and pick & mix bins instead of the resealable plastic ones.
- Start asking your brands the tough questions about their packaging. They’ll appreciate your interest if they’re serious about sustainability.
- Shop for Mindful Brands that share your values.
Celebrate your progress
It takes effort, but when a business mitigates its environmental and social impacts, there’s tremendous value in being a values-led business.
As more organisations embark on their sustainability journey, would we still need to think about our carbon footprint? Or celebrate organisations like ours that enter initiatives like the Sustainable Business Awards?
Absolutely we will. Because, when you consider the collective progress made so far in lowering emissions, reducing waste, and addressing ethical values including fair pay and equality, it’s fair to say we’ve barely left the starting blocks.
We all need to do our share and more by encouraging others to see that change is not only critical, but also possible, beneficial, but an essential win-win for all.
We’ll continue to enter the Awards, not only to keep track of and celebrate how far we’ve come, but to continue learning from other like-minded businesses leading the way. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re committed to continuing our sustainability journey and making improvements. After all, sustainability is about progress, not a race to perfection, and there's always important work to be done.
Through our efforts, we hope we can inspire other businesses and consumers to embark on their sustainability journey too.
Learn more about our Sustainability Programme
And join us on our sustainable journey by entering our #InOurNatureNZ competition.