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What it really means to be a sustainable brand

What it <em>really</em> means to be a sustainable brand

On 22 April each year, we celebrate Earth Day across the globe. And one of its goals is to bring about awareness as to how we can play our part in keeping the environment healthy. Not just for us, but for generations to come. This is something that we, as a sustainable brand, strongly believe in and is reflected in our range of body and skincare products.

The 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report revealed that we have around 10 years to slow down the effects of global warming before we reach the point of no return. This is not just for the sake of the planet we live on but mostly for the people that inhabit it. Changing weather patterns affect everything from crops to the polar ice caps. Experts believe this will result in an estimated 32 to 132 people being forced into poverty and, according to the United Nations (UN), the potential extinction of up to one million plant and animal species.

It’s not, however, all doom and gloom. Scientists believe that if we collectively make significant changes to how we produce and consume, we can slow down the damage. One of the ways we can do this is by making the switch to sustainable brands.

What is a sustainable brand?

According to Forbes sustainable brand ‘is one that has successfully integrated environmental, economic and social issues into its business operations’. This means having values over and above profits, such as concern over the environmental impact, ensuring ethical supply chains and offsetting their carbon footprint where possible.

Aside from the potential harm caused by the production process, the two main areas a sustainable brand approaches sustainability is by considering its ingredients and addressing its packaging.


When it comes to ingredients, there are a couple of things to think about, namely where and how they are sourced and how said farming impacts the environment.

The ‘where’ refers to a range of things that should be top of mind for any sustainable brand. One of them is where the ingredients are grown, as sourcing locally not only uplifts local communities but reduces your carbon footprint by reducing the distance between farm and factory.

Another consideration is whether the ingredients are organically grown without the use of harsh chemical pesticides. This makes the ingredients safer for consumption without disrupting the surrounding ecosystem.

The ‘how’ refers to the people and labour practices that go into sourcing their ingredients. Farming should be responsible, workers treated fairly and legally and growth should be supported on a local level. It’s not just about doing no harm but helping to improve the livelihoods of those in your supply chain.

Terres d’Afrique focuses mostly on wild indigenous botanicals to create our sustainably-made products. The benefit of these indigenous plants is that they have evolved to be incredibly well adapted to their environment. They are often key species in their ecosystem that play a role for other species. By promoting the sustainable use of these homegrown resources with local communities, we are contributing to the regeneration of ecosystems.


It’s not just the content itself but how it’s contained that matters as a sustainable brand. The beauty industry alone is responsible for 120 billion units of plastic waste each year and is a top offender when it comes to microplastics in their formulations as well. The reason for this is that plastic is cheaper to manufacture and lighter to distribute. Despite it being everywhere, only 9% of the plastic made is recycled, according to National Geographic. This is why sustainable brands are fighting against the use of this material, despite its perceived practicality.

The reality is that the amount of plastic in the ocean and on land has reached catastrophic new heights. The equivalent of one garbage truck of single-use plastic packaging ends up in the ocean every minute. The greenhouse gasses emitted by the production of plastic are just as problematic. Combined, they pose an enormous risk to the health of humans and nature.

There is no type of packaging that doesn’t impact the environment in some way. Nevertheless, the most sustainable types of packaging are glass – which can be infinitely recycled and reused – and biodegradable paper and cardboard.

Biodegradable plastic made from corn starch seems like a great idea. But with the ever-increasing population and the need for food production to rise by 50% by 2050, using farmland to produce packaging isn’t a sustainable option.

Other alternatives, like aluminium, have pros and cons. The energy costs and CO2 emissions from manufacturing it are very high. However, this metal is indefinitely recyclable and 80% of the aluminium ever produced is still in the cycle today. Also, if it ends up in the environment, it will rust and degrade and return to the soil where it originally came from without causing harm.

Sustainable, or just sneaky?

Because of the increased awareness around and interest in climate concerns, more mainstream brands are trying to get involved (at least as far as their marketing and PR are concerned). This phenomenon is known as ‘greenwashing’ and is a way of maintaining public support despite any claims of or known dubious practices.

If your goal this Earth Day is to join the fight against climate change, ask yourself if the brands you consume are making notable sustainability efforts that enable you to live sustainably, too.  And not just in one or two areas but across the board. A sustainable brand will have environmental values at its core and unwavering loyalty to them. While no brand can be totally sustainable, the transparency in what they are doing to try and achieve this ultimate goal is what matters. It allows consumers to make informed decisions on what is, and isn’t, acceptable for them.

An opportunity for growth

Unfortunately, with the state of the planet, being a sustainable brand is not enough. It’s also about the regeneration of indigenous plants that play a vital role in their local environments. Not just about replacing what is used, bringing awareness to the plight of our delicate natural ecosystems and why they should be revered and protected is a crucial element.

Another is the upliftment and empowerment of the communities and workers that play an important role in the growing, harvesting and manufacturing processes. Without them, many popular products wouldn’t exist. But by buying from a small-scale business – whether they are supplying the finished products or the ingredients with which to make them – you are supporting the lives and goals of others.

Want to shop environmentally-conscious products this Earth Day? Explore the Terres d’Afrique range of sustainable body and skincare spoils.