There’s never been more choice for ethical products – that’s products that have a positive social impact, environmental impact, or both.
The term itself covers a whole range of factors including fair treatment of workers, transparency in how a company operates, the impact of manufacture on the local environment, sourcing of sustainable materials, and animal welfare.
With many brands claiming to be ethical, or sell ethical products, it can be hard to know where to put your money as a responsible consumer.
If you are unsure about the ethical credentials of a brand, it’s a good idea to ask questions directly.
A good retailer will have no problem providing details about sourcing, materials or manufacture.
Guilt-free shopping doesn’t have to mean spending more or sacrificing on style, as the list shows.
What it may require is a little more time to seek out specialists and items that may be made in small batches or to order.
Aerende half glaze teapot: £70, Aerende
Emily Mathieson’s non-profit online shop is full of beautiful products made by people in the UK facing social challenges. This dip-glazed stoneware teapot is made in Derbyshire by adults with learning disabilities. It’s inspired by traditional British craft, but the pot’s tall looping handle provides a modern twist. These unique and socially conscious homewares make great gifts, and Aerende has just started a gift list service that makes an ethical alternative to the mainstream.
Panda bamboo bedding set: £110-£180, Panda
Bamboo might not be the first material you think of when it comes to bedsheets, but environmentally friendly brand Panda is out to change your mind. Bamboo viscose is a sustainable material that uses a third of the water it takes to manufacture cotton. The sheets have a soft feel with a subtle silk-like sheen. As a natural material it’s breathable and suitable for allergies too, with no synthetic or plastic in the mix. The set comes in green, white or grey.
Nkuku Damira mirror with shelf: £39.95, Nkuku
Devon-based company Nkuku made it its mission to champion handmade products from around the world that are produced and sold fairly. Unlike other ethical brands which operate only online, you’ll find its wares in lots of boutiques and larger shops too. This brass-framed mirror shelf is typical of its smaller homewares; it’s antique feel brings a unique touch to your dressing space. It comes in two sizes, and like many products on the list, makes a great gift.
Kreis Design large pegboard shelf: £119, Kreis Design
Major retailers often ship in furniture and homeware that has been made abroad. Buying British is an easily made change that reduces the need for transport and supports homegrown independent designers and makers. This pegboard shelf by designer Nikki Kreis is made in the UK from sustainable birch plywood. It’s a handy modern design with a mix of pegs, hooks and shelves that’s easy to re-configure as you need. The pegboards can be made in custom sizes too.
House of Kind Aurora Borealis cushion: £75, House of Kind
This striking geometric cushion is handmade in India; buying one means supporting the craft and community of its artisans. The yarns and tassel are coloured with environmentally friendly dyes, and the filling is hollow fibre – a synthetic alternative to animal products like feather or down. It’s beautifully tactile, with woven cotton sections that are a pleasure to touch. House of Kind is great source of homewares that have a positive social and environmental impact.
Myakka Shimla wooden table lamp: £139, Myakka
With a contemporary spin on Fairtrade, Myakka has a varied range of furniture and homeware with something for all tastes. The Shimla lamp has a ribbed base made by carving into mango wood and painting the grooves for a strong contrast. Ethical sourcing has been this British company’s passion since 1999. It seeks out small and medium-sized companies (this one employs 70 people near Delhi) that provide safe, healthy and supportive workplaces.
Mungo Mill Vrou Vrou blanket: £167.40-£211.85, Mungo Mill
If you have the pleasure of visiting Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, you’ll be able to see for yourself how this mill’s fabrics are made. The weaving workshops are open to the public every day as a way of keeping this industry alive, celebrating the craft of the workers, and creating vital local employment. The contemporary Vrou Vrou lattice blanket is woven from pure cotton, and comes in two bright colourways. Like all the mill’s products, the blanket is made in limited runs with an emphasis on quality.
Traidcraft recycled glass water carafe: £15, Traidcraft
Traidcraft was the first UK organisation to get Fairtrade on consumers’ agendas – starting with a catalogue in 1979. It now has a useful website including fashion and food as well as homeware. This simple, functional carafe is made by hand by workers in Bolivia. It’s made from recycled glass that has been collected locally. The cup fits over the carafe to make a lid when not in use. It’s a smart product that proves shopping responsibly doesn’t have to be expensive.
Fabelab Bunny storage bag: £39.95, Natural Collection
Natural materials are always good to have around the home, but especially if you have young children or sensitive skin. Danish brand Fabelab makes this cute storage bag from organic cotton which meets the global standard for organic textiles (Gots). The standard covers a range of factors both social and environmental. It’s a practical, multifunctional design for the kids’ room, with a drawstring top, quilted inner and ears that can tie together as a carry handle.
Earl of East London soy travel candle: £16, Earl of East London
Scented candles are a little luxury at home, but most people don’t know that paraffin wax candles are bad news for your home environment. Paraffin is a petroleum by-product that releases toxins as it burns, and wicks with a lead core are harmful too. As a healthier alternative, this candle is made from non-genetically modified soya and has a cotton wick. Its floral scent – inspired by British wildflowers – comes from essential oils rather than artificial chemicals.
The verdict: Ethical homewares
Fairtrade often makes you think of far-flung places, but the positive impact of Aerende’s products starts at home. The teapot is an example of how a product can have a life-changing impact on communities in the UK, but it’s also a quality piece in itself.
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