How to Find and Support Good Businesses
When the pandemic happened, a shift in our shopping habits also took place. Aside from going online as lockdowns kept us home, many of us also looked into shopping local. It emerged as one of the consumer trends in Asia and in other parts of the globe.
Shoppers turned to local brands, because there was a drive to support local businesses as many struggled to survive, according to MarTech series, which reports on trends. As shoppers, we also became concerned if our lifestyle–including our buying habits–were sustainable. We were growing more concerned about climate change and social issues. And in a 2020 study cited by MarTech, consumers all over the world were willing to make lifestyle changes to address those concerns.
As consumers, one of the ways to support small local businesses while addressing environmental and social issues is, of course, to use their service or buy their products. The harder part is knowing how to spot them. To get you started, here are a few things to look into and questions to ask to make sure you’re supporting businesses that do good things for the community.
1. Where materials for products come from
Aside from being more eco-friendly and cutting transportation cost, sourcing raw materials locally means there’s a higher chance of transparency. It will be easier for us to know where the materials for that item you’re buying come from. If 100% can’t be locally sourced, ideally the primary raw materials should be.
Sustainably Made, which makes wooden home accessories and kitchenware, only harvest the mature trees in their own tree farm to ensure a healthy growth rate. Since the early 1990s, their tree farm has been practicing sustainable methods of tree farming and they also offer sustainable tree farming seminars to farmers and their community.
2. Do they make use of recycled or second-hand materials?
There are many benefits to recycling. When a business makes use of recycled materials or second-hand items to upcycle or create their product, they’re doing their share for the environment since there’s no need to manufacture new materials, which can produce substantial pollution.
At Common Room, brands such as Krete Manila and Glorious Dias make use of waste materials such as capiz or vintage clothes, respectively, for their products. We also carry handmade paper by Kasa Ko made from the pulp of old paper bags you donated in stores.
3. Hiring and treatment of employees
Okay, this one can be a bit difficult. Unless your favorite brand gets called out in the news for labor problems (yikes!), we usually don’t know how the staff who help make your favorite items are treated. (But in case you’re thinking of having your own business, make sure you have legally-mandated benefits, inclusive staff policies, and proper training for your future staff.)
To increase the likelihood that our peso is going to businesses that treat their employees fairly and do good work for our communities, we can start looking at social enterprises. While they work like a business with a need to generate revenue, they also have a social objective. They also typically employ job-seekers from at-risk communities.
Cut the Scrap, which uses scrap wood for their products, employs PWD makers. Woven (while not yet available here at the online shop, can be found at Common Room SM Aura, Power Plant, and Ayala Bay) started by working with the banig weavers in Samar after the devastation of Yolanda in 2013. They continue to work with crafting communities to create modern handicrafts.
4. Look at the packaging
We dispose of tons of packaging materials each year and as consumers it’s good to be observant of just how much packaging your favorite brands are using. Do they use excessive plastic packaging (most of which end up in landfills)? While many of us probably bring our own reusable bags or forgo the packaging if the item is small enough to fit in our bags, you can check if your favorite stores make an effort to do more.
We’ve been accepting donated paper bags for six years, which we reuse in the stores and have also turned them into handmade papers during the pandemic. The online shop also uses biodegradable materials for mailers, honeycomb wrappers, and tags are eco-friendly seed paper. Now if you see your favorite brand using excessive packaging, you can always write to them (most are accessible via social media) and request if they can minimize it or to look for ways for more sustainable packaging. We can all do our part <3
—written by Mabel David-Pilar