Message from Earth: Organic Matters

This week we’re bringing you a re-post from our friends at Fairware, a distributor of ethical and sustainable promotional products. Reading some of the latest posts on the Product with Purpose blog, we were particularly taken with the following video by Fairware supplier Anvil Organics. Highlighting the sustainability merits of organic over conventional cotton, we thought it was a nice summary of the issue and of particular relevance to our readers considering sustainable programming for uniforms, corporate gifts and give-aways.

We were impressed by this digital short created by one of our suppliers, Anvil Knitwear. The short video released at Farm Aid 25 last October, highlights the impacts of pesticide use on the environment and farmers, encouraging consumers to support organic farming practices.

Anvil Knitwear has made a commitment to double organic cotton production in the US through an agreement with the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative. Along with Disney LLC, they’re hoping to encourage conventional cotton farmers to switch to organic methods by offering a premium for their yield.  Anvil will also purchase any of the cotton making the transition to organic at a price close to that offered for organic. Read more about Anvil’s project to plant the seeds of change HERE.

Fairware is proud to carry a full line of Anvil organic apparel. Browse our site or contact us for more information.

New Research Helping Define the “Sustainability Consumer”

This week we’re bringing you a re-post from our colleagues at Ecolabel Index, an online database that offers the largest global directory of ecolabels.

With raw data showing demand for greener products staying robust in spite of a major recession, researchers are working to question old assumptions about who sustainability consumers are and how they behave. Recently, we have learned about a number of innovative studies, including researching online auction behaviour, that are helping to get a more accurate read on this audience.

Perhaps the most comprehensive is a new primer by Dr. Remi Trudel of Boston U. and released by The Network for Business Sustainability that analysed 91 different studies to understand if consumers will pay more for sustainable products. Interestingly, the answer is yes, and the average premiums being paid are 10%. This is contrary to prevailing wisdom that consumers are not willing to pay a premium for environmental and social goods.

Regardless, a gap continues to exist between the number of consumers with good intentions and the number who actually make greener purchases. What is behind that gap? According to this work, the main issues are:

  1. Confusion about the product’s sustainability benefits,
  2. Confusing packaging,
  3. Trade-offs required to buy the product (like a price premium), and
  4. Competition between brands.

One of the recommendations for future research is to investigate when and how much companies should communicate their sustainability performance given the risk of being called greenwashers due to over-promoting and the abundance of information now available at people’s fingertips.

We agree more research is needed, and are interested in what benefits consumers value most and whether those benefits match up with the sustainability needs further up the value chain.

In the short term the sector can take action to more clearly communicate to sustainability consumers:

  1. List a product’s specific sustainability benefits (what makes it better?)
  2. State the amount that benefit costs (how much more am I paying for that? 5%? 15%?)

Two simple steps that could help grow a market.

Social Accountability 8000 training session postponed

Flickr / *Micky

A few weeks ago we posted a blog inviting you to join us for an SA8000 training session in Vancouver at the end of August. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, this session has been postponed until late fall/early winter 2011. The new dates will be announced by Social Accountability International (SAI) shortly.

The date of the associated networking event, organized by Reeve Consulting, will also be shifted to take place during the re-scheduled SA8000 training week.

Details will be announced here as they become available so please check back. If you’d like more information in the meantime, please contact Kevin McCarty at kevin@reeveconsulting.com

Announcing Reeve’s ReSOURCE: sustainable purchasing insights from the Reeve Consulting Team

Reeve's ReSOURCEThe most recent edition of our new e-newsletter, Reeve’s ReSOURCE, was recently circulated. If you missed it in your inbox, you can view a copy HERE.

Through this newsletter we’re offering useful insight in sustainable supply chain trends, innovations, key findings from industry sector reports and provocative opinions.

We want Reeve’s ReSOURCE to be more than just a hub of what we’re tracking in the fast moving world of responsible purchasing and ethical sourcing. We also want to answer your key questions and incorporate your best practices, making it a dynamic resource for sustainable supply chain executives and managers.

View a couple previous editions HERE. If you like what you see, sign-up HERE to have future editions delivered directly to your inbox.

We really appreciate you feedback on the newsletter and our projects, so please let us know what you think by sending an email to tim@reeveconsulting.com, or posting a comment below.

Reeve Insights from Sustainable Brands 2011

Flickr / kevincole

Corporate America was out in full force at Sustainable Brands 2011 (#SB11) recently held in Monterey, CA, and so were we!

Bringing together concepts of business strategy, sustainability and innovation, the 4-day event focused on the connections between sustainability as a driver of product design as well as a mechanism for engaging with customers and employees.

We had a great time, made some wonderful connections and were exposed to inspiring initiatives and concepts in the realm of corporate social responsibility.

Below we’ve summarized a few of our insights.

Sustainability case studies – a closer look at some inspiring initiatives

While the week was full of inspiring sustainability stories, there were a few case studies that particularly stood out for us (click on the links for more information).

  • Panera Bread, pay-what-you-can model – This American restaurant chain allows customers to choose the amount they pay for their meals. CEO Ronald Shaich shared that 20% of his customers pay more than the suggested donation while 20% leave less. By opening stores in diverse communities, Shaich has found higher-income people will offset the costs for their lower-income neighbours.
  • Hewlitt Packard, building the energy-smart home – Taking a closer look at home energy management, HP Labs has developed sensing technology and a cloud-based application that clearly illustrates a home’s energy use, allowing homeowners to easily monitor and manage energy consumption from their dishwasher to TV.
  • Nike, better world project – Earlier this year Nike launched the website nikebetterworld.com which highlights the company’s green programs such as the use of environmentally preferred rubber, jerseys made from recycled bottles, responsible packaging and more. The site also highlights the value of sport for addressing social issues, like HIV AIDS, obesity, even war.

Supply chains are a sustainability starting point

Supply chains were a prominent topic of discussion throughout the event and we were pleased to hear our colleagues recognizing supply chains as a key starting point for driving sustainability both vertically, through a business, and horizontally with customers.

One of the most encouraging supply chain initiatives we heard about was the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the goal of which is to improve the sustainability of apparel and footwear products by developing an industry-wide index for businesses to measure and evaluate their products’ social and environmental impacts. By pooling resources and knowledge, member companies hope to develop more sophisticated and uniform tools for evaluating their supply chains and engaging with suppliers on improvements. Founding members include Patagonia, Nike, Levis, Gap Inc., Mountain Equipment Co-op, Environmental Defense Fund and many others spread across North America, Asia, Europe and the U.K.

Collaboration is making sustainability initiatives stronger

As demonstrated by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, we found that collaboration was a strong theme throughout the event.

We attended a great session by Bonnie Nixon, Executive Director of the Sustainability Consortium, a mixed-discipline group that develops READ MORE

Who do you want to hear from? Call for guest speaker suggestions

Reeve Consulting is partnering with Social Accountability International to deliver SA8000 training, August 22-26 at SFUSocial Accountability International (SAI) Harbourfront in Vancouver.

A fantastic opportunity to develop your expertise in managing CSR initiatives, SA8000 is the leading global social accountability standard for decent working conditions and labour rights. This week-long training will provide practical knowledge on the main issues of social auditing and performance and is targeted at a wide audience including sustainability directors, brand managers, auditors, NGO and government staff, among others.

fork, knife, spoon

Flickr / Tanel Peets

In conjunction with the training, we’ll be hosting a dinner and networking event on August 25.  The event will include a guest speaker who will share their extensive experience in global supply chain compliance and implementation of supplier codes of conduct.

In preparation for this networking event, we’re requesting your input:

If there were one person we could bring to Vancouver this year to speak about responsible sourcing, ethical consumerism and sustainable supply chains, who would you like to hear from?

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All answers will be kept private to the Reeve Consulting team.

Thank you in advance for your input!

Sustainable Purchasing Video demonstrates new media opportunities for staff communication & training

Engaging staff in the art and science of sustainable purchasing is a challenge for any organization – so we were thrilled to see this short video from the City of Edmonton (a Reeve Consulting client) which is a great example of staff communication techniques and a cost-effective approach to making green and sustainable purchasing meaningful and tangible for City employees.

The 4 minute video is targeted at administrative and general office staff across the organization and it communicates 3 simple sustainable purchasing guidelines. The video and outreach campaign is part of a broader communication and training strategy that was developed by Reeve Consulting for the City of Edmonton as part of the City’s new comprehensive green and ethical purchasing program that is considering the social and environmental effects of their more than $1 billion annual spend.

Featuring faces from across Edmonton’s municipal departments (including the City’s mayor!), the video explains why selecting products that are environmentally responsible, ethically sourced and feature minimal packaging, helps save money, improve efficiencies and make the City of Edmonton’s operations more sustainable.

Watch the short video on the City of Edmonton’s website by clicking the image below.

City of Edmonton sustainable purchasing video

Click on the image to view the full video at edmonton.ca

Social Accountability 8000 Introduction & Basic Training comes to Vancouver – join us!

Are you interested in becoming a leader in social supply chain compliance? Interested in a way to both enhance your career and help your organization stand out as a leader in corporate social responsibility?

Social Accountability International (SAI)We have just the thing! Reeve Consulting is excited to be partnering with Social Accountability International (SAI) to deliver SA8000 training August 22-26 at SFU Harbourfront in Vancouver.

SA8000 is the leading global social accountability standard for decent working conditions and labour rights. Overseen by SAI, SA8000 is an auditable certification standard system based on the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child and a number of International Labour Organization conventions. Today 1.3 million workers are employed in over 2,300 SA8000 certified facilities in 62 countries.

Develop your expertise in managing CSR

The SA8000 course provides practical knowledge on the main issues of social auditing and performance, using the SA8000 management systems approach. More specifically, the training covers:

  • Key concepts and background on social compliance in the supply chain and social auditing, and how they can help you improve your CSR program
  • Understanding the elements of the SA8000 standard and how they can be used to enhance your supply chain efficiencies and social compliance
  • Reviewing solutions that will help you overcome common compliance challenges
  • Effective auditing techniques that can be used to verify your supplier’s compliance with international labour standards
  • Effective methods for managing risk in facilities, or across an entire supply chain, which can result in cost savings for your organization and your suppliers

The guidance document, in-depth case studies, virtual factory tours and highly interactive group exercises allow for hands-on learning and practical application methods and tools.

The course concludes with a comprehensive exam and students who successfully pass are awarded a Certificate of Successful Completion.

Who should attend?

Targeted at a wide audience, the course has previously drawn auditors, social compliance staff, sustainability directors, brand managers, retailers, manufacturers, government officials, academics, trade union and NGO representatives among others.

Whether you’re currently employed as a social compliance auditor or aspire to be more active in this field, this training is aimed at enhancing your expertise in managing corporate social responsibility performance and supply chain efficiencies by aligning them with international labour standards.

Vancouver mountains

Flickr / D'Arcy Norman

This is the only SA8000 Basic Training to be held in North America in the remainder of 2011. We encourage you to sign-up now to reserve a seat.

  • Date: August 22-26, 2011 (Monday-Friday 9am-6pm)
  • Location: SFU Harbourfront Centre (515 West Hastings St.), Vancouver, BC
  • Price: $1995 (credit card or wire transfer accepted)
  • Online registration: http://www.socialfingerprint.org/enrollment.html (enter the coupon code ‘ReeveVan2011’ and receive a discount on the Thursday night networking event – details below)

Networking Event – Thursday, August 25

red wine glass

Flickr / jenny downing

In conjunction with the SA8000 training, Reeve Consulting will be coordinating and hosting a dinner and networking evening on Thursday, August 25.

The evening will featuring a high-level guest speaker who will share their experience in managing a leading global supply chain compliance program. This event will provide an excellent opportunity to connect with sustainable purchasing professionals from across North America and to learn from others experiences.

Stay tuned for details as we’ll be announcing them here on our blog as the date approaches.

Whitehorse Wins Award for Sustainable Purchasing

Flickr / Larry 1732

We were delighted to hear that the City of Whitehorse recently received a Yukon Sustainable Community Award, in part for their work with the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing (MCSP), a project facilitated by Reeve Consulting.

The MCSP is comprised of a group of Canadian municipalities that are leveraging their collective experiences, knowledge and resources to strengthen their respective sustainable purchasing programs. Started as a pilot project in 2010, the group just started their first year of full-fledged programming including peer exchange teleconferences, technical training webinars, customized action planning and more.

Participating municipalities include Vancouver, Ottawa, Guelph, London, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Olds, Wood Buffalo, Halifax and others.

“Through working with these other municipalities the City is able to tap into vast amounts of research and experience not available to us individually,” said City of Whitehorse Sustainability Projects Manager, Shannon Clohosey. “Working with other municipalities has already assisted a number of City projects, including work to extend the life cycle of our computer equipment and ensuring that many of the items we purchase are made from recycled materials.”

Local governments of all sizes are invited to participate in the MCSP. If you’re interested in joining the project, or would like more information, please contact Tim Reeve at tim@reeveconsulting.com or Kevin McCarty at kevin@reeveconsulting.com or by phone at 604-763-6829.

GoodGuide.com for Sustainable Purchasing Programs

Good Guide

Our clients regularly ask us where they can find a list of green products or sustainable suppliers. While there is no silver-bullet-one-stop shopping list for ethical and sustainable options, there are an increasing number of online tools to help buyers evaluate the environmental and social attributes of products.

While these tools are user-friendly and convenient (often accessible from mobile devices) they’re only useful if they draw from credible data.

Recently at Reeve Consulting we’ve been investigating GoodGuide.com, an online database of information on the health, environmental and social impacts of over 100,000 consumer products.

While the GoodGuide is mainly targeted to consumer audiences, we see some value in this tool for corporate purchasers, and even more so for staff at large in organizations with a sustainable purchasing policy.

Where we see this tool could be particularly useful is for staff making smaller, un-tendered purchases. For example, an administrative employee buying office or cleaning supplies may find it useful to compare attributes of one product to another to determine which is greener or healthier.

What is the GoodGuide?
GoodGuide is an online platform that allows user’s to search specific products to find a rating based on health, environment and society measures attributed to the product or manufacturer. An overall rating for each product is provided, and user’s can drill down for specifics on health and sustainability features by clicking on a rating for more details.

Screen shot of Dawn ultra-concentrated dish soap on GoodGuide.com

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10. A score of 10 means the product rates very well relative to other products in a category or other companies in an industrial sector.

Similar to the EnerGuide label on appliances, GoodGuide doesn’t approve or certify products as meeting specific sustainability standards, it only provides information that can be used to compare one product to another.

Highlights of the GoodGuide
A major strength of the GoodGuide is that it’s easy to use. Primarily, directed at the consumer market, with a mission to help consumers make purchasing decisions that reflect their preferences and values, the tool has been set-up with a user-friendly interface and colour-coded rating system. There’s also a GoodGuide’s smart phone app, which allows one to access the full product database from the shopping aisle by simply scanning product barcodes.

Mobile barcode look-up; Flickr / Lauren C.

Another benefit purchasers will find with GoodGuide is that it covers many more products than those qualifying for ecolabels. At the same time, if a searched product does feature an ecolabel, this information is shared in GoodGuide’s product description.

Regarding the data behind the ratings, GoodGuide conducts regular stakeholder consultation and relies on third-party experts to develop and continuously improve their rating and metrics system. Their executive team and advisors are leading academics in product lifecycle analysis and other related fields, which brings some added credibility to the tool. Further, GoodGuide clearly outlines their data quality control procedures and acknowledge where there are gaps in data and value judgments.

B CorporationAs an organization, GoodGuide is certified as a “for Benefit” Corporation by BCorporation, a recognized body which provides third-party verification of GoodGuide’s sustainability and transparency performance. It requires that GoodGuide meet a comprehensive set of transparent social and environmental performance standards. As a result, GoodGuide has made their metrics and ratings system publicly available, which provides legitimacy to their rating system for products.

Areas for consideration
Recognizing that the GoodGuide is a relatively new tool, we’re impressed by the large number of products that have been rated to date and the level of information we’re able to access. As the GoodGuide continues to develop, there are a couple areas where we feel the tool could be strengthened.

From early use with the tool we found that the transparency of raw data behind the ratings could be improved. While it appears you can take an extra step to contact GoodGuide and request detailed data for a given product, we’d prefer that the data be easily accessible, in real-time, while using the tool online.

Another area where we feel there’s some room for improvement is in GoodGuide’s social ratings. Currently the tool appears to take corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance for companies and apply it at the product-level. For example, a company’s support of local community groups could be recorded as a social impact of a product produced by that company, even if the two aren’t directly related.

We believe this approach could be improved, and that presenting the social impact of a product requires a look at the social impacts of the given product’s supply chain. We encourage GoodGuide to develop social supply chain criteria (similar to the Fair Trade model) rather than apply general company CSR performance to individual products.

No replacement for ecolabels, but a useful tool
Overall, companies and organizations with a sustainable purchasing program will find GoodGuide useful for initial product research and informing less formal purchasing decisions.

While use of the GoodGuide can’t replace consideration of ecolabel certifications for mandatory product specifications, it may facilitate initial product research and help engage more staff by making daily sustainable purchasing decisions easier.

Let us know in the comments section below if you’ve had a chance to use the GoodGuide. If so, what has your experience been? Where did you find it useful? What do you feel could be improved?