Shop Your Values — Online
How B Corps, Including Preserve and Grove Collaborative, Combine Convenience and Sustainability
Online shopping is convenient, but when buying from large-scale shopping sites, it can be difficult to know what values lie behind our purchases. Yet it is possible to get the convenience of online shopping with well-made products that consider both the environment and the supply chain. In this conversation, Danielle Jezienicki, Director of Sustainability at Grove Collaborative, and Deana Becker, Director of Stakeholder Operations at Preserve, talk about shopping your values, especially online.
What are some of the ethical issues that come into play with online shopping, especially from large-scale shopping sites?
Danielle Jezienicki: When buying from online shopping sites, it can be difficult to learn much about a company and what it stands for, so you run the risk of inadvertently supporting companies that don’t share your values. While the internet is a consumer’s greatest tool in offering the ability to research any subject, it can understandably drive us to hunt for the best deal, and in the process also turn a blind eye to whether those low prices result in a cost elsewhere.
Deana Becker: Online shopping often leads us to prioritize convenience over other values, dialing in on exactly what we want and when we want it (blue cotton shirt, size medium, arrives tomorrow!). But the incredible volume of online shopping also means there is a huge opportunity for people to inform themselves and vote with their dollars for the kind of businesses we want in this world.
Certified B Corporations like Preserve and Grove Collaborative meet the highest standards of positive impact on society and the environment. Learn what it means to be B Corp certified.
How can shoppers combine the convenience of online shopping with staying true to their values and making a positive impact?
Becker: It’s wise to dive deep to educate yourself. Just because something is pitched online as “sustainable” doesn’t always mean it is, or that a company’s definition of sustainable matches your own. A number of companies do the research for you, and that makes supporting good business practices easy. Grove is an excellent example of bringing values together with convenience. Fellow Certified B Corporation DoneGood also offers a browser extension that filters searches for more ethical options, regardless of the shopping category.
Jezienicki: Yes, plenty of online retailers are committed to sustainability and curating collections focused on making a positive impact that don’t come at a premium and, in many cases, can even be more affordable. Internet research makes it easy to search for whatever you are shopping for coupled with an adjective that captures a priority — whether “sustainable,” “recycled,” “upcycled,” “Fair Trade” or otherwise. I would also encourage consumers to do a little research about the certifications that best align with their values or are most relevant to a category, given how multidimensional sustainability is.
For us at Grove, we are focused on this exact combination of convenience and positive impact. This means helping our customers align with their values or reducing waste through our product assortment that helps avoid single-use plastics and reduce plastics on our end — as well as partner with trusted third-party certification partners such as the Environmental Working Group to provide products vetted for safety and chemical use. Our trained Grove Guides are a resource that helps customers bridge this gap, answering questions and recommending products to ensure that they are finding the products that align with their intended outcomes.
Do you have any tips for researching companies online and determining which ones hold fast to these priorities?
Jezienicki: There are a lot of things to consider in terms of prioritizing social or environmental focus areas. B Corp status is the closest thing to a shortcut, as it indicates that a certified company has rigorously considered all the areas of impact — from social to environmental and governance. To use ourselves as an example, at Grove, our entire mission is based upon delivering sustainable and healthy products to our customers as sustainably as possible to help them reduce their impact at home without making trade-offs. We want our customers to be delighted by the experience — from how a product looks to how it smells or feels on their body to knowing that it was made with sustainably sourced materials.
Becker: Absolutely, reliable third-party certifications are invaluable. B Corp status is a great shortcut for understanding if a company walks the talk around being a business committed to doing good. Finding companies committed to sustainable sourcing as evidenced through certifications such as Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance can also be helpful, although these certifications only apply to certain product categories. You can learn a lot by thoroughly reading what companies put forward about their own practices — and don’t hesitate to reach out to them. At Preserve, we spend a lot of time communicating with our customers (we call them “Preservers”) about what we do and why we do it. We’re always happy to answer phone calls or emails from people who want to know more.
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How does a sustainable approach affect your products, especially in the larger context of a supply chain?
Jezienicki: Our brand and product teams are always actively searching for ways to innovate around functional sustainability that takes into consideration waste, water and energy. For example, our Grove cleaning concentrates are small tubes of concentrate customers mix with water in our reusable glass spray bottle. This means we ship a much lower volume of liquid, reducing the emissions of transportation as well as avoiding the perpetual single-use plastic cycle of non-refillable cleaning vessels. Our wool laundry dryer balls are another great example. They help our customers avoid chemical dryer sheets and reduce drying time by 25%, which saves energy. Across our Grove branded products, we rely on trusted third-party certifications such as EWG Verified, EPA Safer Choice and USDA Biobased to let our consumers know these products meet the highest standards of safety.
Becker: Preserve was founded with the goal of creating a home for recycled #5 plastic, ensuring it could be kept out of landfills and turned into beautiful everyday products for home and personal care. We do all of our manufacturing in the United States, which allows us to ship shorter distances and work closely with our manufacturing partners. Through an LCA (Lifecycle Assessment) we know using recycled feedstock instead of virgin plastic offers a 54% savings in water, a 46% savings in energy, and leads to the creation of 64% less greenhouse gases. We continue to seek to solve problems by creating a market for materials that would otherwise be waste. We are proud to have launched our Preserve Ocean Plastic Initiative (POPi) in 2019 to make products from plastic at risk of entering our oceans. Our POPi products also direct 25% of proceeds to key nonprofits leading the way in ocean health. Grove was one of the first to carry our POPi products outside of the Preserve online store, and we’re thrilled to have had such a great partner on this initiative.
How do you honor your role as a B Corp in providing ethical options for conscious consumers?
Becker: We became a B Corp in 2011 because it matched our environmental mission and the values we’d always held. Being a B Corp constantly challenges and inspires us to improve our practices in all areas. Over the past few years, we’ve improved our parental leave policies, added all-staff volunteer days, and launched a donation program. We’re continually evaluating what we can do better.
Jezienicki: We see being a B Corp is foundational to who we are as a company and every product we sell. We’re focused on ensuring our customers feel good about the products we send them — and that they can look to us to find ways to reduce their impact. To give some visibility to what that looks like as it applies to our supply chain, we work with many suppliers who are also B Corps, prioritize reduced and plastic-free packaging, focus on ingredient transparency, and source materials that are cruelty-free/Leaping Bunny certified wherever relevant. That all happens before a customer even receives their (carbon neutral!) shipment.
B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.