(BPT) - Today, it’s not enough for a company to make good products. Savvy consumers want to know the businesses and brands they patronize make a positive difference. Do they produce products in a sustainable way? Do they help their employees thrive? If they are reliant on animals, do they treat the animals humanely? How do these companies impact their communities?
These are questions conscious consumers are asking — or should be asking — about businesses and brands they support, and where they spend their hard-earned dollars. If you're one of the growing number of consumers who care where their products come from and how they're made, here are four steps toward becoming a more thoughtful consumer.
1. Do some homework
These days, it’s easy to research companies you buy from, thanks to the internet. To learn more, however, go beyond scanning their website. While you can gain useful information there such as their certifications, you’ll also want to understand the impact those certification standards have on how they do business.
For food products, it helps to examine the labels. How many ingredients are listed? Are they easy to pronounce? Do you see certifications from credible third-party organizations that evaluate their quality and how they are produced?
2. Support family farms
To celebrate National Agriculture Week, aim to buy food from family-owned farms. Look for the USDA organic seal, which guarantees you are buying organically farmed foods.
Family farmers feed and nourish millions of families nationwide, and globally. Supporting family-owned farms shows appreciation for their hard work season to season, their countless hours tending to their land and animals — and their continued focus on creating a sustainable future for generations to come.
"We focus on dairy with integrity, and making sure that the product we produce is humanely and sustainably raised," says Kristel Corson, chief revenue officer of Clover Sonoma dairy, based in Northern California. The third generation, family-owned company was one of the first brands to launch organic milk. "We work with thirty family farms, some of which have been with us for generations, and we have been American Humane Certified for more than twenty years for our animal welfare practices."
3. Find meaningful purpose behind every purchase
One way to find meaningful purpose behind all your purchases is to identify the third-party certifications that are most important to you. Some that you may be familiar with include:
- B Corp certification, which assesses a range of responsible practices including social and environmental concerns, public transparency and legal responsibility. Certified B Corporations must demonstrate a commitment to equity, and show that they use a portion of their profits for the good of their employees, their community and the environment. The primary mission of B Corp is to encourage businesses to "be a force for good."
- For agricultural products derived from animals, "American Humane Certified" means a nonprofit who has been advocating for animals for more than 100 years has verified that the farm’s animals are humanely treated and cared for.
- Environmental Working Group (EWG) Verification helps consumers identify chemical-free and environmentally friendly products.
Clover Sonoma dairy has been B Corp Certified since 2016. As part of their commitment to their community, the company supports employee volunteerism, and donates 1% of their gross Organic OMEGA-3 Milk sales to the Plastic Pollution Coalition. They also donate 5% of their annual gross profits to elevating dairy by supporting healthy farming; empowering future generations by providing educational opportunities for children; and supporting the community by building community engagement and donating products to community programs.
4. Make sure they walk the walk
Businesses may make statements about environmental sustainability, diversity or community engagement, but what are they actually doing to back their claims? Do they donate to causes you care about? Are they changing how they produce or package goods to be more sustainable?
For example, Clover Sonoma dairy has created a fully renewable milk carton. It’s made from 100% plant-based materials, with FSC certified paperboard, and has a smaller carbon footprint than traditional milk cartons, according to a study by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.
With a little effort, you can use these steps to ensure the purchases you make and the foods you eat come from businesses that back the same causes you do, as well as follow through with practices that make you feel good about supporting them.