Social Enterprise Mark CIC, the global champion of credible social enterprise standards and the body responsible for the only internationally available social enterprise accreditation, has partnered with several well-respected standard setting and accreditation bodies to encourage consumers to challenge ethical labels and sustainability claims that are used by brands they buy from.
With recent studies* suggesting that sustainability issues are playing an increasing role in consumer purchase decisions, the new campaign aims to educate consumers about ways they can identify genuine labels and claims, and therefore make more informed choices. Working with fellow accreditation bodies Golf Environment Organization, Living Wage Foundation, Soil Association Certification and TrustMark, and also Ethical Consumer, a key player in the ethical consumer movement, Social Enterprise Mark CIC hopes to get consumers thinking more about the labels and badges that appear on the products they buy, and to find out what they actually mean.
Lucy Findlay, Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC explains the motives behind the campaign: “With the practice of greenwashing** now commonplace in consumer markets, we feel it is really important for consumers to challenge what brands are telling them and not just accept their claims at face value.”
“That is why we have developed this campaign – to educate and support consumers to question the validity of ethical claims, to enable them to identify those that actually have some substance. We are pleased to have the support of several high-profile partners, to engage with a wider consumer audience across multiple sectors.”
Director of Ethical Consumer Tim Hunt, explains their reasons for getting involved: “We are pleased to support the 'Beyond the Badge' campaign, as a timely reminder of the need to question the real meaning behind the logos, symbols and standards on the products we buy. As time-poor consumers we often rely on what companies tell us, as to how sustainable and ethical a product or service is. In a 'greenwash-rich' world we very much encourage shoppers to ask tough questions of producers and retailers, to ensure they reflect our values and are deserving of our custom.”
The campaign calls on consumers to look ‘beyond the badge’, to find out more about ethical claims, and to look for any evidence or proof to support such claims. Social Enterprise Mark CIC has put together some useful tips to support consumers to cut through the “greenwash” to identify genuine labels and claims. One way that is suggested is to look out for a symbol of accreditation, which has been independently assessed and awarded by a third party. Social Enterprise Mark CIC and the campaign partners believe that accreditation and certification is vital in engendering consumer trust in brands, as it provides visible proof of an organisations sustainability credentials.
As explained by Clare McDermott, Business Development Director of Soil Association Certification, “Trust is a major issue for consumers; our research last summer found this to be the biggest influencer on purchasing behaviour and accreditation and certification is the best way to guarantee trust and reassure people. We’re really pleased to be supporting Beyond the Badge the campaign as the UK’s leading organic and ethical certification body, to help make sure people know what they are buying and to expose greenwashing and false claims.”
This is a sentiment echoed by Libi Newell, Communications Manager at Golf Environment Organization “Credibility should be at the centre of any meaningful standard and certification system. That has been the case with GEO Certified® from the very start; it’s transparency and independent verification has been instrumental in it becoming a trusted mark with a strong reputation. Because of this it provides value to golf clubs, and the golf industry demonstrating real commitment and positive impact. We are pleased to be involved with this campaign, to promote credible certification and support consumers to make informed purchase decisions, and to know they are buying from businesses they can trust.”
Social Enterprise Mark CIC and the campaign partners urge consumers to pledge their support to the campaign, and to get involved by spreading the word on social media. People are encouraged to keep an eye out for examples of greenwashing and to share these on social media, using the campaign hashtag #BeyondTheBadge. Full information can be found at www.socialenterprisemark.org.uk/beyond-the-badge/
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* Unilever study of 20,000 adults from five countries revealed one third (33%) of consumers are now buying from brands based on their social and environmental impact. The study asked how sustainability concerns impact choices in-store and at home. Crucially, it then mapped their claims against real purchase decisions, giving a more accurate picture than ever of what people are buying – and why.
** Greenwashing refers to the corporate practice of using PR and marketing claims to mislead customers into thinking a company and its products are ethical/environmentally friendly. See www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/aug/20/greenwashing-environmentalism-lies-companies
Notes to Editor
About the Social Enterprise Mark Community Interest Company
Social Enterprise Mark CIC is the accreditation body responsible for assessing applications for the internationally recognised Social Enterprise Mark and Social Enterprise Gold Mark. It exists to recognise and build the capabilities of social enterprises as competitive, sustainable businesses, dedicated to maximising social impact above shareholder profit. It ensures the social enterprise business model remains ethical, credible and commercial through accreditation.
It is not a membership body and approval is not automatic: around 30% of organisations who pursue Social Enterprise Mark accreditation are assessed as ineligible. Existing Mark Holders’ are regularly reassessed, to ensure they still meet the criteria. This robust accreditation process provides a credible standard for genuine social enterprises to prove their credentials, as businesses that have been independently guaranteed to be trading primarily for the benefit of people and planet. The assessment and accreditation process is overseen by an independent Certification Panel, which ensures that the Social Enterprise Mark/Gold Mark criteria are rigorously applied.
For more information, please visit www.socialenterprisemark.org.uk
About Ethical Consumer
For over 25 years Ethical Consumer has been the hub of the ethical consumer movement, helping consumers to shop ethically, campaigners to challenge corporate power and businesses to improve their supply chain. Its mission is to make global business more sustainable through consumer pressure. Ethical Consumer is the UK’s leading environmental and ethical consumer magazine, which is published bi-monthly (six times a year).
Ethical Consumer has developed the world's most sophisticated and simple, personal ethical rating system to give consumers the information they need, based on detailed research of over 40,000 companies, brands and products.
To find out more visit www.ethicalconsumer.org/
About Golf Environment Organization
GEO (Golf Environment Organization) is an international not-for-profit organisation, dedicated to helping a global golf community establish leadership in environmental enhancement, resource efficiency and community value. GEO offers practical guidance to golf facilities, developments and tournaments through the OnCourse® programmes, along with administering a credible, third party assessed voluntary sustainability standard system, GEO Certified®. GEO is a full member of the ISEAL Alliance and a Social Enterprise Mark Holder.
For more information, please visit www.golfenvironment.org
About Living Wage Foundation
The Living Wage Foundation is the organisation at the heart of the independent movement of businesses, organisations and people who believe that a fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. We recognise and celebrate the leadership shown by the 3,000 Living Wage employers across the UK who voluntarily commit to ensure their staff earn a real Living Wage that meets the cost of living. We are an initiative of Citizens UK. Only the real Living Wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living in London and the UK. It takes into account a basket of goods and services, which includes food, transport, housing and childcare. It is based on what members of the public think makes up an acceptable standard of living.
Employers choose to pay this wage on a voluntary basis. The real Living Wage applies to all workers over 18 – in recognition that young people face the same living costs as everyone else. It enjoys cross party support.
The UK Living Wage for outside of London is currently £8.45 per hour. The London Living Wage is currently £9.75 per hour. This figure covers all boroughs in Greater London These figures are calculated annually by the Resolution Foundation and overseen by the Living Wage Commission, based on the best available evidence on living standards in London and the UK. For more information, please visit www.livingwage.org.uk/
About Soil Association Certification
The Soil Association was founded in 1946 by farmers, scientists, doctors and nutritionists to promote the connection between the health of the soil, food, animals, people and the environment. Today the Soil Association is the UK's leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. Its Chief Executive is Helen Browning, and Chair of Trustees is Dennis Overton.
Soil Association Certification is a wholly owned subsidiary which certifies over 70% of all organic products sold in the UK. Certifying organic food and farming since 1973, and more recently, organic textiles, health and beauty products, the team has built up extensive practical experience and provides unrivalled support before, during and after certification. It also audits other schemes within catering and forestry, including the Food for Life Catering Mark, and the FSC and PEFC forestry standards internationally, delivering assurances of quality and provenance that industry and consumers can trust. Its Chief Executive is Martin Sawyer and its independent board is chaired by Nick Buckland. To find out more visit www.soilassociation.org
TrustMark is the only Government-backed ‘find a trader’ scheme covering almost all trades in and around the home. TrustMark registered firms are awarded the accreditation after thorough vetting and on-site inspections to ensure the firm is raising industry standards. It is the only scheme that requires qualified inspectors to do these visits, so that technical competence is checked as well as business practices and customer satisfaction.
TrustMark is a registered social enterprise, operated under licence from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS. The TrustMark website has an easy to use UK wide postcode search facility, which provides details of more than 21,000 licensed trades and has the largest database of accredited tradespeople in the country.
To find out more visit www.trustmark.org.uk/
TrustMark is the Government Endorsed Quality Scheme that covers work a consumer chooses to have carried out in or around their home