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  • Writer's pictureLiam Mcsherry

The UK’s emerging ethical channel. 5 companies and trends to look out for.

We don't like Black Friday. We don't participate in Black Friday, other discount days or sales seasons...We produce in small batches and when these are sold we make more. We don't overproduce without knowing what works. This means we don't end up with dead-stock that we could only sell at a discount’. Elvis & Kresse

According to a report compiled by the Co-Op, ethical consumer spending and finance in the UK reached record levels at some £98bn by the end of 2019. The emergence of an ethical channel is reflective of a shift in consumer mindset, away from mass consumption to mindful purchases. So it’s no surprise that there are growing numbers of distributors, retailers and marketplaces that are taking a different approach. For brands selling eco-conscious products that are looking to scale up their business organically, there are a growing number of options to develop routes to market that are in line with their values and beliefs.

Five companies and trends to look out for.

We believe fully in the ethical principles behind the brands we represent and are always keen to share their stories with our customers. Green Pioneer

Green Pioneer is one a few specialist distributors of sustainable consumer products that sell into retail channels across 20+ European countries. Established in 2008, the UK based company stocks a variety of ethical and sustainable products ranging from Home & Kitchen to Personal Care. The company also operates two online retail stores, selling direct to consumers.

Zero Waste Stores

The first zero waste shop opened in 2017, and today there are 300 zero waste format stores (and counting) across the UK. These plastic free shops have zero waste food and household items such as detergent dispensers at the heart of the store. You can also find branded items in categories such as household, personal care and confectionery. Unlike Amazon Fresh and Tesco, zero waste stores are often community centred and relish customer interaction and education. Whilst the majority are independently owned, there are a growing number of franchise stores appearing on the high street. One example is The Source Bulk Foods, a franchise retailer with 50 stores in 5 countries including the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Singapore.

‘We won’t bombard you with hundreds of products all owned by a handful of giant corporations.’ Hisbe

A supermarket but not as you know it

In addition to zero waste stores, there are a number of supermarkets that are taking a similar approach to selling groceries and consumables. Brighton based Hisbe first opened in 2016 and is a good example of a supermarket that prefers to stock products from local suppliers, and has removed plastic packaging from its stores. The company now turns over € 5.5 million, serves 4,000 customers a week, and supports over 90 local suppliers.

Online and on message

Ethical e-tailers and marketplaces are also popping up online in greater numbers. Ethikel is one such start-up that only works with environmentally conscious brands. A bronze award winner in the ‘Best New Business - Retail’ category at the 2021 UKBA awards, Ethikel also makes a point of working fairly with its 3rd party sellers, with a fixed fee on sales and clear guidelines. Buy Me Once has a refreshing approach to selling products. The idea being that the platform only selects items that are designed to last a lifetime or come with a lifetime guarantee. Products are an investment rather than a temporary fix. The business recently raised over £1 million in funding on crowdsourcing platform Crowdcube, and is launching it platform in the US.

Our ethics and values are incredibly important to us; they make us who we are, and are the driving force behind everything we do. Ethical giftbox

From B2C to B2B

Ethical giftbox operates as an online marketplace, selling third party items including stationery, personal care and clothing. The company also has a gift box service available to both consumers and corporate companies. For every box bought, £1 is donated to one of the 4 charities supported by the company.


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