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Choosing ‘green’ companies

The everyday things you buy and use can have a significant impact on the environment. Choices you make when buying a product or using a service can make a difference.

You’re the customer

You are the customer, so ask for what you want. If you're looking for greener products, or want to know about how something was made, ask the retailer or manufacturer.

Keep asking if you have to. If more people ask, companies are likelier to start stocking greener products, offering greener services and providing information you need to make a greener choice.

What do companies do to be ‘green’?

Have a Corporate Social Responsibility policy

More and more companies are taking their environmental responsibilities seriously. This is often referred to as part of a company’s Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) policy. Many have developed schemes that consult their customers on the company’s policies, so you can get involved.

Larger companies’ websites will have information about their policy and commit to reporting the progress they make to customers and investors. For example, a company may give a percentage of a product sold, like an insurance policy, to an environmental or conservation project in another country.

Provide green products

Even though certain markets for green products are currently small, more and more providers are:

  • offering products with a ‘green’ element to them – for example, donating money to a green initiative, like a carbon off-setting scheme, for every product (eg a mortgage) that is sold
  • letting customers know what other companies they work with (or invest in) – for example, a company that only sources raw materials from known, sustainable sources (those that can be renewed) and does not damage the environment

Make their business greener

Examples of what companies are doing include:

  • reducing packaging on products or using greener fuel in the vehicles that transport their goods to stores
  • removing chemicals that may harm the environment from a product or a manufacturing process

'How supermarkets can help make greener shopping easier' is a report that looks at the UK's top nine supermarkets. It rates them on how well they help customers make environmentally-friendly, sustainable choices. You can download the report by clicking on the link below.

How do you choose 'green' companies or products?

Companies try to show customers how 'green' they are in their environmental claims or labels. Green claims can help you make more informed choices about what you buy. They can also encourage businesses to improve their environmental performance. Some claims, however, are more helpful than others.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has produced a guide to green claims. This helps businesses understand how to make their green claims clear. It also helps consumers to understand what the labels mean.

How do you choose ‘green’ financial products?

If you have money set aside you can save and/or invest it. You can make a decision about what type of savings product to choose and which provider based on how ‘green’ they are.

An independent financial adviser is a good starting point. Not all advisers will have detailed knowledge of green or ethical companies and products. It’s a good idea to check this out when you first get in touch.

You can also use the website Your Ethical Money, which compares various green and ethical investment funds. This allows you to invest in a fund that most closely matches your environmental concerns. The website also has reports on how green different banks, pensions and insurance products are.

What about ethical companies?

Being an ‘ethical’ organisation can cover a wide area from animal welfare and workers’ rights to only investing in companies and countries that support human rights.

People have different opinions on ethical issues. It’s your choice what research you do into a company or organisation before deciding what product or service to buy or use.

You can find out the ethical criteria that some organisations use by looking at reports on the website Your Ethical Money. Use the link in the paragraph 'How do you choose 'green' financial products?' to find out more.

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