The Sinplástico team has been wanting to talk to you about this subject for some time, but we have not found the right way to do so… until today.

Over recent months, we have seen a number of our friends’ zero waste shops, that were created by fellow activists, struggling to pay their bills and to keep their teams afloat.

Unfortunately, we have also been witness to some who have had no other option but to close their doors for good.

The worst thing about this situation, is that we know the reason why… and it’s not pretty.

This is why we feel compelled to write this blog post.

We believe that you too deserve to know why long-standing zero waste stores are suddenly disappearing so that you, as a responsibly-minded consumer, can choose to act accordingly.

When the market takes advantage of public awareness

Over the last few years, but especially recently with the explosion of the pandemic, there has been an online shop boom and there has been increasing interest from profit-driven big brands and individuals to tap into growing social and environmental awareness.

These new players have 2 characteristics in common:

  • They are backed by big budgets coming from existing funds and/or investors.

  • And they are ruthless when it comes to using unethical techniques to get rid of the “competition” and thereby win over the zero waste market.

In order to achieve this exact objective, they use methods such as the following:

  • Drop prices as low as possible in order to eliminate their “competition” and thereby take over the zero waste market in just a couple of years… and then put all the prices back up and reap the rewards.

Something that is clearly not very fair or ethical, but that they can afford to do due to the investment they have backing them.

  • Spending tens of thousands of Euros in advertising.

Something that shops like ours can’t and don’t want to do.

  • Pay Google for search engine positioning and optimisation by using the name of other leading shops and thereby hijacking customers when they are really looking for their competition’s website.

One of the most dishonest techniques, taking advantage of the hard work put in by other brands.

As you can imagine, social cooperatives with small teams like ours along with a modest sized zero waste online stores are not going to be able to play at this game effectively.

How to identify a small ETHICAL online business

At Sinplástico we are saddened to see both online and physical stores, that were born out of activism back when zero waste was not profitable, led by people who have contributed towards establishing the concept of zero waste, are now being replaced by unscrupulous brands managed by people who are only looking to make an economic return.

Unfortunately, on many occasions, these responsibly-minded consumers don’t even suspect that the online store, to which they are giving their money, is not as ethical as it appears.

So, how can we tell the difference?

Here we want to give you 3 tricks for seeing them a mile off.

1. Keep in mind that just because a product is ethical it doesn’t necessarily mean that the company acts responsibly

The zero waste sector has become trendy.

Whilst back in 2014, when we started, we seemed like we were from outer space when talking about reducing plastic use, now even the big brands are selling reusable bottles and fabric produce bags for your bulk shopping needs.

However, this doesn’t mean that they are ethical businesses.

Well the same happens with online business.

Therefore, before doing any zero waste and/or sustainable shopping on the internet, be sure you know the following: just because a shop sells zero waste products it doesn’t mean it’s ethical.

2. Pay attention to how they communicate: if they don’t give you all the information, it’s likely that they don’t want you to know everything

A message a brand puts out there says more than meets the eye.

By this, we are not just talking about what the brand says, but also what they choose NOT to say:

  • Do they tell you who the people behind the company are, their names and surnames?

  • Do they tell you their story? How they started and what motivated them?

  • Do they tell you what they are passionate about and what change they’d like to see? Who do they collaborate with? Who do they donate their money and/or time to?

  • Do they tell you about how the business works?

  • In general, are they transparent? Do they tell you how their products are manufactured? Where are their offices and warehouses? Can you get in touch with their team?…

So that you get an idea, at Sinplástico we have a whole page dedicated to telling you about who we are, how we started and how we work, on our blog you can see posts like this one in which we tell you about the NGOs we like to collaborate with, and our product pages include all the information you need to make a well-informed decision when making a purchase.

3. Pay attention to all the products on offer

Are they all as sustainable as they seem? Are they manufactured locally or do they come from the other side of the world? Are they made ensuring fair working conditions? Do they have any hidden plastic?

If the product range doesn’t offer very much information or if there are eco-friendly products mixed together with others, that are not so eco, you might start to get a little suspicious.

If you need help to distinguish those “fake eco-friendly products”, we would like to share with you this post from Javier, our co-founder, in which he explains what you should look at when wanting to know whether a product is truly sustainable.

What you can do right now to support small ethical online businesses

If you have gotten this far, we would like to thank you.

Just by you reading this post to the very end, fills us with appreciation. Having a community around us that really concerns themselves with the impact of their shopping habits helps us do what we do.

Because knowledge is power, and we know that you know how to use it.

So now, if you want, you can:

  • Help us share this information on social media, so that those who want to shop in a more responsible way hear about this.

  • And, above all, use the tricks and tips we gave you so that the Euros you spend on your shopping help small ethical stores.

We can’t wait to hear what you think about this situation in the comments section. Will you tell us your thoughts?


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