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Fair Trade, Eco and Ethical

ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY


Our Mission Statement:

  • Shared Earth sells Fair Trade, recycled, eco-friendly and ethical products. Its mission is to tackle the climate crisis and create a fairer, more sustainable world.

Fair Trade and environmental issues are closely interlinked. The problems caused by the climate crisis, in particular, affect countries in the South far more than those in the North; tackling it is a top priority.

Significant impacts

Our Environmental Policy is based on where we can be most effective in achieving our aim of protecting the environment and tackling the climate crisis – our ‘significant impacts’. These are listed in terms of priority; a low priority does not mean that we ignore these areas, simply that they have less potential for reducing carbon emissions or other environmental damage.

Starting with our overseas activities, these are:

  • The raw materials used to make the products we buy and sell High
  • The production processes used High
  • The way they are transported from their origin through to the final customer High
  • The packaging used Medium
  • The waste created in the production process, and its treatment Medium

We next consider the carbon emissions we create through the buying and selling process in the UK:

  • Travel overseas Medium
  • Travel and transport to our customers, trade shows, warehouse etc Medium
  • Heat and lighting in our office Low
  • Waste and recycling in our office Low
  • Heat and lighting at UK warehouse Low
  • Packaging and waste at UK warehouse Medium

Finally, we consider the impact our policies, actions and awareness raising may have on customers, suppliers, staff, other businesses, decision makers and the general public High

Our overall aim is to strike a balance between environmental, social and economic responsibilities and always to improve environmental standards within the company, our key aim being – to tackle climate change.

Specific policies

Raw materials

  • We favour products made from recycled or upcycled materials, using the 3R principle ‘Reduce Re-use Recycle’.
  • As far as possible, products should be long-lasting, easy to repair and easy to dispose of.
  • If not recycled or upcycled, materials should be sustainable (“meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”) – such as wool, jute and softwoods.
  • They should be sourced locally wherever possible.
  • They should support biodiversity and not harm local eco-systems.
  • Timber policy: Our policy (which applies both overseas and in the UK) is to use wood only from sustainable plantations, recycled, reclaimed or fallen trees, or products using bark or twigs which can be used without harming the tree concerned. FSC certification is a bonus. We do not sell products made from protected species without a licence, and work with our suppliers to identify alternative woods to replace items traditionally made from species listed in CITES endangered species regulations, even where these have been granted limited licenses. We favour fast-growing softwoods such as mango and albesia.
  • Paper: We favour the use of handmade papers. If normal paper is used, it should if possible either be FSC certified (preferably 100%), or better, recycled.
  • Textiles: Because of the water and land required to grow cotton, we prefer textiles like jute and bamboo, which also grow faster and need fewer or no pesticides. We want to move away from virgin cotton and are also exploring other options such as banana and pineapple leaf.
  • We do not source products made with cotton from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan or Xinjiang or anywhere where there are particular concerns about forced labour.
  • Dyes and paints: We expect natural vegetable dyes and paints to be used where possible.
  • Palm oil: Our aim is only to use sustainable palm oil in products, preferably RSPO certified which are certified on a ‘segregated’ or ‘identity preserved’ basis, rather than ‘mass balance’ or using ‘credits’.
  • Plastics:  We aim to reduce the use of plastic in the products we buy, unless it is recycled plastic, which we encourage. For instance, we are phasing out the use of glitter, sequins and acrylic.
  • Metals: All jewellery or products in regular contact with the skin should be lead, nickel and cadmium free.

Production processes

  • We try to work with suppliers to ensure production methods are appropriate to the ecology and economy of their country of origin, avoiding pollution, protecting fresh water sources and not damaging the local environment.
  • We favour small producers where energy usage is likely to be low, encouraging all producers to reduce their carbon emissions where possible.

Transportation overseas and to the UK

  • Globally, 80% of the energy we use comes from burning fossil fuels, and the biggest carbon saving we can make is by reducing this. Our aim is therefore to minimise the environmental effect of the transport of our products and in particular to become carbon-neutral by 2023.
  • From January 2021 we will use biofuels to neutralise the carbon emissions of all our overseas shipments, sea or air.
  • These biofuels will be waste and residue-based. They will not compete with food production, and will not involve changes in land use, deforestation or biodiversity loss.
  • We will also neutralise emissions from journeys by truck from producer to exporter, exporter to overseas port and UK port to our warehouse, by buying biofuels for use on other vehicles, on the ‘mass balance’ principle.
  • Except for small orders of very light products, and some samples, we ship products to the UK by sea rather than air wherever possible. There are some exceptions to this such as samples; very light products; products from countries like Nepal which do not have access to the sea; occasional urgent orders. Air shipments will also be neutralised on the mass balance principle.

Packaging (overseas)

  • Suppliers are expected to minimise packaging, whilst allowing for adequate protection against damages.
  • We ask our suppliers to use plastic only where there is no alternative; even for damageable products like ceramics, we favour shredded paper if possible.
  • Suppliers are told never to use thermacol, to use shredded paper instead of plastic chips, and not to use plastic strapping on boxes.
  • We are trying to replace single-use plastic bags with paper or other compostable alternatives. If products need to be protected from mould, we request one large plastic bag holding multiple quantities, instead of individual bags.

Waste (overseas)

  • We expect our suppliers to avoid contaminating soil or water by ensuring that waste is treated responsibly.
  • Suppliers are instructed that toxic or hazardous chemicals should be avoided at all costs in the extraction, growth or processing of raw materials.
  • They should use credible and legally compliant methods of disposal.
  • We encourage suppliers to use leftover textile, paper and other scraps as fillings for other products. We follow the ‘waste hierarchy’: minimise first; then re-use; then recycle.

Travel to overseas

  • Our aim is to avoid flying as much as we can by reducing overseas trips to a minimum.
  • We do not fly by air to Europe, we travel by train or other public transport instead.

Travel and transport in the UK

  • For staff travel we always use public transport if at all possible.
  • To distribute our products around the UK, we aim to use companies which either have already or are committed to using electric vehicles.

Heat and lighting in our office

  • We try to minimise energy usage, eg turning lights and computers off when not in use, using standby on our photocopier.
  • We try to ensure that replacement electrical items are as fuel efficient as possible.

Waste and recycling in our office

  • We try to minimise usage, for instance by double-sided printing, and waste, by keeping mailing lists up-to-date and reducing junk mail.
  • We minimise the amount we send to landfill by recycling as much as possible including paper, glass, tin, plastic, old biros, even tea bags, banana skins etc for compost.
  • Plastics policy: Our policy is to minimise the use of single-use, non-compostable plastics in packaging and eventually to avoid it entirely, replacing it with paper or other alternatives which biodegrade quickly (whose production should not affect land rights or compete with food crops). Where plastic is used, we aim for it to include as high a content of recycled material as possible, and for it to be printed with the OPRL (on-pack recycling label) to aid recyclability.

Heat and lighting at warehouse

  • As our distribution is sub-contracted, our warehouse is run by another business. Within these limits, we encourage energy use to be minimised. Apart from a small office, the warehouse is unheated.

Packaging and waste at warehouse

  • As many boxes from incoming orders and as much waste as possible are re-used.
  • We use eco-friendly bubble wrap and corn starch, not plastic chips.
  • We are constantly on the watch for better eco options and as long as they are decent quality we will choose them even if the price is higher (within reason).

Awareness raising

  • We aim to promote the environmental agenda, and especially the urgent need for action on climate change, as widely as possible, in particular within the Fair Trade movement. We want everyone to better understand the impact on the world of wastefulness and over-use of resources.
  • By insisting on better eco options, especially in raw materials and packaging, we encourage our suppliers to change their practices not just for ourselves but for all their customers.
  • We use trade shows, catalogues, newsletters and other media to inspire our customers and encourage them to do all they can to tackle climate change.
  • We will ensure that our staff are aware of this Policy and do all they can to further it.
  • Some products we sell should directly support campaigns to recycle, save endangered species, avoid plastic or other causes which we stand for – such as our ‘save our bees’ shoppers and coffee cups.

Legal

  • Our policy is to comply with all relevant legislation within the UK.

Charity donations

  • Our charity donations should favour causes which support the environment as well as people, in particular those which tackle climate change. In 2020 for instance we gave £2,000 to the Joliba Trust for desert reclamation and planting trees in Mali.

EMS

  • This Policy forms a part of an Environmental Management System (EMS). Our EMS consists of this Policy; a plan for achieving our aims, regularly updated; and regular monitoring of progress to see how far we are meeting the targets we have set.


Performance will be reviewed annually, including every second year as part of the WFTO self-assessment process.

Last reviewed: Jan 2021