Ever-increasing volumes of information arriving on our smart phones, in our inboxes, and through every imaginable social media platform mean that the present day business owner has to filter through a huge amount of messaging to figure out what is good or bad, and whether what was good yesterday might be bad today, or vice versa… In the midst of all of this, does it ever feel like you simply can’t buy anything at all without risking the complete destruction of an ecosystem somewhere?
Well, fear not. Thankfully, amid all of this information, there are some helpful, easy-to-use tools out there to assist all of us to navigate the difficult decision-making process of how to choose what is “good” when you’re buying supplies: the labels on the package!
Think about it this way: if you had an allergy to peanuts, you would read the ingredient list on the package before buying sundowner snacks, right? Well, if we apply the same ‘allergy screening’ to things that are harmful to the people and the planet, we should also be reading the packaging to find out what is inside and how it got there. Before you rush to do a crash course in nutrition or chemistry in order to recognise harmful ingredients, let’s rather look for labels that try to draw our attention to more responsible production methods and / or contents. Some such labels that we could watch for are described below. They can help us to channel our hard-earned tourism Rands towards the purchase of goods and services that avoid (or at least reduce) undesirable environmental and social consequences, and create a better future.
Supporting local businesses is such an obvious way to create a better Cape Town. By shopping locally, we’re contributing towards the development of our economy in way that promotes local entrepreneurship and creates jobs. But we don’t need a label to help us find local businesses…
What if we aren’t sure about which tin of olives to buy off the shelf in our local shop? The prices are about the same for a comparable volume, they look like a similar quality, and they’re the variety you want. Turn the jar around and maybe you’ll find that one comes from our South African olive orchards whereas the other might be imported from Italy! When you’re not sure, reading the label to find out where something is produced is a simple way to ensure that the choices you make are helping to enrich our local economy.
If you like logos, you might also look for the vibrant “Proudly South African” mark on many products. It will help you to easily identify where they come from.
With more than 2,500 km of coastline, South Africa’s oceans offer a rich natural resource to provide a fresh range of seafood to visitors. But overfishing or fishing in a way that has harmful consequences for other species (e.g. “bycatch”) or the habitat where fish stocks breed can undermine this incredible resource and leave us with an unhealthy ocean – not good for seafood dishes, and certainly not for our beloved, hardworking fisherfolk….
WWF South Africa, in collaboration with other local sustainability heroes, founded a label called the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative, or “SASSI” for short. It provides a quick reference to identify which species you should buy.
Green means you’re making the most sustainable choice.
Orange means there is reason for concern, e.g. the species might be over-exploited already, or perhaps the fishing / farming method is harmful to the environment. So perhaps best avoided…
Red – yes, just like the robots – means stop! These are either illegal to buy and sell in South Africa or are a species with an unsustainable population.
The SASSI guide is available in a wallet-sized pocket guide – which we think is perfect for guest information books – as well as digital tools. The FishMS is an instant SMS response service, while the SASSI app is available free for Android, Blackberry and iPhone download.
SASSI complements the work of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC eco-label) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC eco-label) certification programmes. Finding either of these labels offers additional assurance that you’re making the best choice for sustainable and traceable seafood.
Ahhh, the range of delicious South African wines seems endless and for that we are very proud. But our pride in this industry is also due to the leadership of so many producers who take their role in operating responsibly very seriously. Some of the ways you can identify these are to look for the following labels:
The Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI) was launched in 2004 to promote conservation-minded farming practices. These wine farms, collectively, conserve more than 140,000 ha of land including local biodiversity hotspots. If you see the pretty protea-sugarbird logo on the next of a wine bottle, you know they are WWF Conservation Champions (aptly named from 2016).
Fairtrade is a global, ethical certification that certifies product supply chains. The label enables consumers to choose wines with confidence that they were produced in a way that makes agriculture more environmentally friendly and allows people on farms to lead the dignified life everyone deserves.
Sustainable Wine South Africa (SWSA) brings together the Wine & Spirit Board, the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) scheme, the BWI, and Wines of South Africa to drive the wine industry’s commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly production. The label is found on the wine box or neck, and guarantees that the wine complies with IPW criteria. “… we’re not just making better wine – we’re also making wine better.”
Paper & other forestry products
You’re already striving to be a paperless business but… there are still a few things that you need to use paper for. It’s ok – you’re getting there! For those remaining paper needs such as employment contracts or payslips, or maybe you need a hard copy of the annual report for your annual board meeting, look for paper made from the sustainably-managed forests, clearly indicated with the label of the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC).
FSC is a not-for-profit organisation committed to enabling consumers to choose products made from sustainably managed forests worldwide, thereby creating positive change through simple consumer demand and purchasing power. FSC-certified paper products are derived from sustainably managed forests in Africa covering almost 7.5 million ha. They are audited for the implementation of production methods that are environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable.
Remember that some of your packaging may also be made of paper so don’t forget to look for the FSC logo there too. If it isn’t there, ask your supplier to source for you – it’s another great way to influence the types of products that the market is supplying!
Shopping for energy efficiency
With winter well and truly here for 2016, we’re again becoming familiar with just how much energy we use to heat guest rooms, prepare hearty soups and stews, and provide lighting when the sun dips below the horizon well before we want it to. Wherever your energy comes from (Eskom, solar, LPG, etc), using it as efficiently as possible is critical.
Your team and how diligent they are at switching off appliances and other energy consuming devices, etc. certainly influences energy use. But your purchasing behaviour also has a significant impact – one that you have to deal with once you’ve bought something. So when you are in need of a new minibar for a room or a dishwasher for the kitchen (or other energy consuming devices), make sure you check the label for how energy efficient the item is.
South African Energy Label: Appliances should reflect their energy efficient ratings either on the information booklet in the box or on the item directly. If the rating isn’t reflected, ask the retailer to find out for you or Google the model BEFORE you buy it! You’ll be paying for the electricity consumption for years to come, so make sure you choose wisely.
South African ratings range from A through G, with A being the most efficient and G being the least efficient.
Where the energy efficient rating is the same on two similar models, you can also compare the consumption in kilowatt hours (kWh), which is also indicated on the item.
Energy Star: Although the blue Energy Star label is usually found on imported items, it is still a useful selection tool for you where no local equivalent product is available. Look for the label for a degree of comfort about efficiency levels and find precise consumption details on the item’s kWh consumption label.
Making a habit of looking at labels
Of course, there are many more labels than those mentioned above so look out for them and buy the products that they appear on if they align to your objectives as a responsible business. Be sure to scrutinise any labels that are not familiar to you – some greenwashing and other misleading eco-labels still linger out there…
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that this quest for better business is a journey, it’s a process. Similarly, labels like these we’ve mentioned are constantly changing. New ones will come along, some may evolve, or they may disappear altogether. The best we can do is… our best. With every new piece of information that we have, we’re inching our way towards better places for people to live, and better places to visit. Enjoy this very worthwhile journey!