SUSTAINABILITY: WHAT IS IT AND WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT?
Our planet is in a critical condition and we will soon reach the point of no return if we don’t do anything to avoid it. Governments are aware of it (although they usually look the other way), and so are companies and consumers, who are becoming ever more stringent given that the situation is affecting us all, both directly and indirectly.
Change is required. Not in a few years, or even months. It is required now. There is no planet B we can escape to when we have destroyed this one. This is why being sustainable now is not a choice, it’s the only path to follow if we wish to roll back the unstoppable process of climate change.
Brands carry an enormous responsibility. What was optional before is now a non-negotiable imperative.
BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN EXACTLY TO BE SUSTAINABLE?
The term sustainable has been misused to the extreme by all of us, to the point that it no longer means what it originally meant. It’s very easy to fall into to the trap of contradiction, or even greenwashing. When talking about sustainability, it is crucial that we do so with transparency and honesty. At least, that is how we see it. Which is why we are pursuing what we believe it is to be sustainable.
For a start, zero impact does not exist. This would only be possible by not consuming anything at all. Since this is entirely impossible, we have to find ways of minimising our impact on nature as much as we possibly can. As individuals, as brands, and in society as a whole.
For Vera & the Birds, being sustainable means channelling all your resources and energy towards a single purpose: to ensure that your impact as a company on the environment is as small as possible.
And this is not an easy path, because you have to take many factors into account. With humility and perseverance we are taking small steps towards sustainable development that enables us to grow in a responsible way.
OUR SMALL STEPS TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY
Biodegradable formulas. We take great care to ensure that all the ingredients contained in our products are biodegradable. We do not use components that may contaminate or pose a threat to animals, so materials such as glitter and micro-plastics are included on our blacklist.
Sustainable packaging. We give preference to packaging made from sustainable materials such as glass, cardboard and aluminium and we also use innovative materials such as sugar cane. A small part of our catalogue is still made with 100% recyclable plastic because, due to their format, it is difficult to find a viable substitute, but we continue to strive to find alternatives.
Organic ingredients whenever possible. A large percentage of the ingredients contained in our formulas are organic, which promotes biodiversity and helps to avoid the use of pesticides and fertilisers.
Zero waste range. In May 2020, we launched a range of solid, zero waste cosmetics, which has been expanding to become established as a collection that includes body and facial soaps, body exfoliants and solid shampoos. This is how we are promoting a cosmetic range that does not require water and very little packaging, making it much more environmentally friendly.
Low migration inks used for printing labels and boxes. Paper from responsibly managed, FSC-certified forests.
We work with local suppliers so that our products do not need to travel from the other side of the world to get here.
Most importantly, we promote a culture of conscious shopping, of buying only what you need, without being influenced by trends that only tempt us to acquire more and more stuff. We are fans of slow life, of reusing packaging and of objects that accompany us the whole of our lives. We do not believe in fast fashion (or its equivalent, fast beauty) or in seasons that urge you to buy because you might miss out on the latest fad product if you don’t.
We won’t lie to you; we are a company and we need to sell to survive. But there are ways and ways of selling. And there are ways and ways of consuming. And a brand can grow and develop responsibly, consciously and sustainably without urging people to buy at all cost and at all times. In a world where hyper-consumption is one of the main causes of global warming, we believe that this is important.
WE ARE CARBON NEUTRAL
It is not enough just to cut down. No matter how much we try to minimise our footprint, there always will be a footprint. That is a fact. Aware of this situation, in 2020, we decided to offset 100% of our carbon emissions, and today we can proudly say that we are Carbon Neutral.
We have offset no less than 5 tonnes of CO2 (5 times more than we produce) by investing in a European Union project in Cambodia whose goal is to use rice husks as biomass fuel to generate electricity for local communities.
DOES NATURAL MEAN SUSTAINABLE?
To conclude, we’d like to talk about two terms that are often confused. Is natural the same as sustainable? No, not always. As we’ve discussed in this post, very often concepts such as natural, vegan, organic and sustainable are treated as synonyms. But they are not. A lipstick can be natural but contain cochineal, which means it is not vegan. Or a cream may be natural but contain a large percentage of ylang ylang, which is not sustainable.
We have all heard of the example of rose essential oil: a litre of rose essential oil requires 4000 kilos of rose petals. There are certain ingredients that require mass exploitation of their natural resource, which means they are not sustainable.
How do we avoid the contradiction? It isn’t easy. In our particular case, we study each product in all the stages of its development to make sure it is in line with our values.
This is our position. These are the steps we are taking in our endeavour to honour our commitment to protect the environment. Despite being very proud of them, we are aware that they are not enough, (it never is!) so we will continue to strive every day, with each decision and each of our products, to achieve excellence. Thank you for accompanying us on our journey.