Small businesses are evolving. We’re witnessing a trend where entrepreneurs and consumers alike are interested in businesses with a strong ethical, environmental or social purpose. The rise of more conscious business practices matches an increase in people’s desire to minimise their impact on the environment and choose more ethical products and services.
The Ethical consumer markets report 2014 found that 70% of people interviewed have bought to support local shops or services, 50% have chosen based on a company’s reputation for responsibility and 48% have avoided a company due to poor reputation. So it really does pay to be green.
A YouGov and GNM survey predicts that this behaviour will grow as people are willing to look for more information on ethical living and seek more sustainable alternatives. It suggests the most effective way brands can support this movement is by providing availability, visibility, affordability, quality and clear communication around ethical products and services.
With this in mind, allow us to introduce you to some of the companies and services in East London that have impressed us with their ethical approach to business and a new website that helps you locate the most ethical businesses, shops and services near you…
Restaurant – Andina (Shoreditch)
Heralded as “London’s top Peruvian restaurant” by Time Out, Andina was founded by Martin Morales, who wanted to use the love of ingredients and knowledge he’d inherited from his Peruvian grandmother Mamita Naty in Shoreditch. The result is a modern ‘picanteria’: an all-day, pioneering restaurant serving healthy food and drinks from the Peruvian Andes.
The restaurant supports the charity Amantani, who provide boarding houses and schooling for disadvantaged children in the Peruvian Andes and their efforts sourcing locally produced and sustainable produce mean they hold the highest rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
Clothing – 69b Boutique (Hackney)
Tipped by Vogue as one of the hippest places in the world, contemporary boutique 69b carries brands that believe in fair trade, fair salaries, legal employment & health and safety for all employees, stocking an exclusive edit of British and International brands that are committed to reducing their environmental impact.
Urban Farming – GrowUp urban farms (Beckton)
The Kickstarter funded GrowUp Box provided a highly productive demonstration of aquaponic urban agriculture
Over in a warehouse in Beckton, the GrowUp urban farms team are developing London’s first commercial Aquaponic farm, sustainably growing food for local markets.
The farm combines aquaculture (farming fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in a nutrient solution without soil) in a recirculating system. From 6,000 square feet of growing space they’ll be producing 200,000 bags of salad and 4,000kg of fish each year.
In the UK, 82% of the population already lives in urban areas, and this figure is expected to rise even further in the future. By farming in previously unused brownfields areas and reducing the distance from farm to fridge, greenhouse gases associated with the processes of refrigerating, storing and transporting food are greatly reduced. Traditional agricultural practices are responsible for 30% of Greenhouse Gas emissions, 70% of freshwater use and almost 50% of all available land on earth. GrowUp Urban Farms aims to address some of the fundamental flaws in our global agricultural system by using aquaponic and vertical growing techniques to build farms in cities.
The Beckton farm will also include a visitor centre allowing people to understand more about sustainable food production in cities, increasing its social and environmental impact in the local community and engaging more people in learning about urban farming.
Community cycling – Bikeworks (Bethnal Green)
Bikeworks’ ethical approach has seen them scoop various awards for social enterprise and recycling over the years as they go about their mission of providing community cycling programmes, including employability for disadvantaged groups, all ability cycling, bicycle ReUse & recycling, schools cycle training and much more to consumers and organisations.
Offering much more than your standard bike shop, Bikeworks opened its first premises in Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets in the spring of 2008 after seeing the strong potential for cycling to make a positive difference to the lives of people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
In its short history Bikeworks has already achieved a significant amount making a positive difference to the lives of many thousands of people, winning numerous awards and expanding the reach of its work across the capital.
Website – Conscious Me
So how do you go about finding out which businesses near you combine quality service with ethical business practices? Enter ‘Conscious Me’ – a website that maps out the “good” options around you, whether you’re looking for a snack or a savings account. Co-founder Sean Nelson explained more to Alphr, “We look very closely at the environmental, social and ethical credentials of a given business and consider this against our Conscious criteria. Making a conscious choice means considering the sustainability and ethics of a product or service, before you buy. It is an informed choice, which is made in order to benefit people, communities and/or the environment, promoting positive change, either locally or globally.”
For more positive local stories about social initiatives and activism in East London see our Reasons to be cheerful in East London blog.
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