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When it comes to living sustainably, the perfect is the enemy of the good

Words: Johanna Kinnock and Maria Jencel

Photos: Various

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Is there such a thing as a 100% sustainable company? And is it possible to get through life without giving any money to businesses with unsustainable practices?

Is it possible to go a day, just one day, without buying anything unsustainable?

That’s what 5 set out to learn for the latest edition of the 5 Podcast.

We quickly discovered that one of the biggest challenges was simply figuring out which companies actually operate sustainably, and which don’t.

Plenty of companies talk a good talk about sustainability these days. But often, there turns out to be more talk than real action (it’s called ‘greenwashing’).

“Consumers would like to buy sustainable products. But it needs to be simple”

Gordon Renouf

Gordon Renouf is one of the people trying to make it easier for consumers to choose more sustainable companies to buy from. He created the app Good On You, which helps users navigate the murky waters of sustainability in the fashion world. Just type in a brand name, and you get a sustainability rating for the company on a 1-5 scale.

“We look at over 500 different sustainability criteria, and a lot of research, then we bring all of this down to a really simple score for consumers to use,” says Gordon. “We know that more than 50% of consumers would like to buy sustainable products. But it needs to be simple for them, because you are not going to spend hours researching”.

But what if you put in your favourite fashion brand and find out that they’re not living up to your expectations? Gordon says: “The perfect is the enemy of the good. Sometimes you can’t avoid buying from a less sustainable brand. But there are things you can do. Like keep that product longer, make sure you dispose of it well etc. You are not going to be a perfect consumer, because we live in a complex world, but understanding more about what is going on and what your choices are is always a good thing.”

To hear the full story of how 5 got on trying to be sustainable for a day, listen to the podcast, Greenwashing: Avocados aren’t sustainable and other lessons from a day of going green. It’s out now, wherever you get your podcasts, and at the link below.