Ethically Sourced: Practical Advice for Sustainable Sourcing

by Ezra Bisschop
March 27 2021 - 6 min read

As pandemics, global warming and inequality dominate daily headlines, one often wonders if the world can be saved. Sure, humanity faces unprecedented challenges. Water scarcity, finite resources and population growth are to name but a few. However, the darkest hour is just before dawn. Since more and more people start acknowledging today’s problems, ethical issues and sustainability practices receive much greater attention than in the past. And while many are still uncertain about how to start their sustainable journey, most of us know it is the only way forward.

In this article, three key areas are listed where one can start its better souring practices. To wit: using sustainable materials, applying different design tactics and working with certified suppliers. Any small contribution in either one of these areas can already make a great difference for the livelihood on our planet.

Using Sustainable Materials

Using sustainable materials for your product can significantly reduce your global footprint. Regular plastics (PE), for instance, causes about 3-6kg of carbon dioxide per kilo produced. In contrast, the total CO2 production in 2019 was 43 trillion kilos.

On the contrary, bioplastics such as PLA have a savings potential of at least 25% in CO2 reduction as compared to their petroleum-based equivalents. Moreover, besides being less pollutant, bioplastics also have great mechanical properties.

Wheat straw plastics for example, has both strength and durability characteristics. In addition, it can be fully biodegradable, and it doesn’t sacrifice any essential food source. Below is a list of more examples which can be considered as alternatives for the creation of your product.

Applying Sustainable Design Tactics

Besides raw materials, product design can be another advocate of the clean system. It is widely known that products designed to last longer can yield tremendous savings for this planet. Smartphones, for example, have an average lifespan of 2.5 years. If only their life cycles could be doubled, the world could save billions of kilos of CO2 released. To illustrate this, each year more than a billion smartphones are produced whereby each device accounts for 16kg (if not more) of CO2 released out into the open.

One could only imagine the savings potential by applying different design tactics such as modular design. With this tactic, components which are worn out faster than others can be replaced, which essentially saves a device from becoming obsolete; hence increasing the lifecycle. Below are a host of other design tactics mentioned, all of which able to contribute to a cleaner environment.

Working with Sustainable Suppliers

Finally, one could reduce its footprint by working together with certified partners. While there are many different green certificates, two are explained in more detail. For starters the Environmental Management System Certificate, also known as ISO14001.

This qualification ensures your supplier has active environmental policies in place. For example, active emission management, product lifecycle assessments and waste disposal policies. All these guidelines guarantee you are working with a sustainable supplier, or at least one which takes the environment into account.

The other green label is the Pollutant Discharge Permit, written in Chinese as 排污许可证 which literally means ‘allow dirty.’ Perhaps it is a bit more difficult to find a supplier with such a permit. However, if you find one, you can be certain that pollution caused by this supplier is under strict supervision of the government. For example, toxic air released from coal-fired heat source production or industrial wastewater. Both of which heavily restricted in maximum quantities allowed per annum.

To Summarize

In short, there are many ways to contribute to a cleaner environment. Whether you use a more sustainable material, a different design tactic or a certified supplier; any method will cause your product to be more ethically sourced. And of course, it goes without saying that you cannot thick all boxes. Nevertheless, if everyone contributes only a little, a sustainable future might become reality!

Back to index