Being a B-Corp: Buying Ethical and Sustainable Swag/Giveaways

B Corp Certified

Roompact became a certified B-Corp in 2022.

Although we’re certified, we’re never done! We want to be better. We will be sharing some of our experiences, thoughts, and ideas right here on our blog. By practicing transparency ourselves, we hope you will hold us accountable. We also hope that by sharing our own actions and experiences, it will also give you ideas on how you can make your own departmental practices more socially responsible. Learn more about B-Corps.

Part of the B-Corp certification process looks into a company’s purchasing policies. This includes the swag and giveaway items you purchase. Roompact often purchases these items (branded tumblers, pens, socks, etc.) as recognition gifts for our software clients and as giveaways for conferences. Many housing departments also purchase these types of swag items for their residents, too.

One of the questions Roompact has tackled (and is tackling) is how to be more sustainable and socially-responsible in our swag purchases. As you may seek to purchase these for your own department, here are some tips and ideas to keep in mind.

Buy for Quality and Durability

The future of our planet cannot support a throwaway culture. At least from our own experience, a lot of swag items picked up at a conference or trade shows end up in a landfill. (Remember that fidget-spinner craze? How many of those does one person need?!)

When buying swag for your department, think about items that your residents will need and use on a regular basis. Also consider buying for quality and longevity as opposed to volume. A well-made, single giveaway item will be better for your residents, and better for the environment, than purchasing large volumes of cheap throwaway items.

At Roompact, we’ve always attempted to focus are giveaways on quality versus quantity. We’ve also tried to be intentional about picking items that we know student professionals can use. This was one of the reasons we decided to print some curriculum workbooks and textbooks as giveaways. Giving the “gift of knowledge” seems a much better way of being responsible to the planet while engaging our core audience.

Think About Social Responsibility, Not Just Environmental Sustainability

When it comes to purchasing sustainable swag, many folks may first think about environmental considerations. This can include buying swag made from recycled materials or from sustainable sources. Understanding where a product comes from and what it is made with, however, can be a difficult process. Luckily there are a number of different certifications and logos you can look for that can help.

When buying paper-based products, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has a number of logos you can look for to gain insight as to the raw materials’ source. This can include information on whether or not a paper product is sourced from an FSC-certified forest and the level of recycled paper content in the product. Learn more about these logos on the FSC website.

If you must purchase items made of plastic, try to purchase items made from recycled plastic content and items that are themselves more easily recycled. The higher the level of recycled content, the better. It may also help you to remember the plastic recycling symbols and numbers. Within the US, plastics with numbers 1 and 2 are often the most commonly accepted at local recycling centers. Overall, Roompact tries to avoid plastics in the first place.

While environmental considerations are an important concern, they shouldn’t be the only consideration you look at. A product may be environmentally friendly, but produced by exploited labor. When purchasing swag, dig a little bit deeper into the companies producing the products and how they treat their employees–both in terms of sustainable wages and benefits, but also working conditions. This is where your investigation process gets a little bit more complicated. Given the nature of supply chains, materials and products can go through many different companies along the way as the products are produced. Researching companies with this level of detail is often difficult to impossible. Luckily, much like environmental sustainability, there are a number of certifications that you can look for that also include labor, community, and other ethical practices into account.

B Corp Certified

Certified B-Corps adhere to standards that go beyond just environmental considerations, but also how the company governs itself, treats its workers, and supports the local community. Roompact itself became a B-Corp in 2022 and often looks to other B-Corps when making purchasing decisions. Check out their database of certified B-Corps you may consider. Do a search for “promotional items.”

The Fair Trade website includes a directory of products that are certified. In their own words:

When you see a product with the Fair Trade Certified seal, you can be sure it meets rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards. That means:

  • Safe working conditions
  • Environmental protection
  • Sustainable livelihoods
  • Community Development Funds

Navigating all of these certifications and considerations can often be a difficult task, but well worth your efforts. An additional help may be to work with a promotions company that does some of this background work for you. Increasingly there are a number of companies that produce swag that has already been vetted. One such example, which Roompact has used in the past, is Ethical Swag.

Remember Your Goals

Finally, perhaps the easiest tip we can give when it comes to purchasing ethical swag and giveaways is to go back to your goals. Why are you purchasing these items in the first place? Too often it can be easy to get caught in the trap of groupthink or tradition and think that you NEED to purchase these items. Or you may purchase items that don’t further the goal you are attempting to achieve. The next time you go to purchase swag, think through the following questions:

  • What is the goal or purpose of this effort?
  • Does the product we’re looking at further this goal or effort?
  • Could the goal be achieved through a different means than a giveaway item?

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