Fantastic news – Etiko has won ‘Best All-Round Sustainable Retailer’ at the inaugural NORA Sustainability Awards.
Held in Sydney last week and hosted by the National Online Retailers Association (NORA), there were 11 categories and hundreds of applicants. The category Etiko won had at least nine finalists, including big brand names like The Iconic and Koala.
Because we were up against such well-known organisations (and our application was a little last minute!), I really didn’t think we’d stand a chance at winning. But, as luck would have it, our little three-person business based at the quiet end of Sydney Road stood out from the other finalists.
When Etiko was announced as the winner, the first thing that came to my mind was “WTF”! With no speech prepared, I decided to do what I’ve done for most of my life: speak from the heart and simply ‘let it rip’.
So, I explained that as much as Etiko cares about the natural environment, that’s not the main reason we exist. We define sustainability as something that is sustainable (or regenerative) for people, animals and the planet. This means that we consider what’s best for the people within our supply chains, the communities we live in and sell to, and the health of our planet and the animals upon it. In fact, we only exist because I was sick of reading about the use of child, sweatshop and slave labour within the fashion industry and wanted to provide a solution. So yes, sustainability is part of our brand, but we don’t believe the planet’s health can be separated from the health of its people. We are simply too interconnected.
I also asked the question: has Etiko made a difference? My answer is yes and no.
Yes, Etiko demonstrates what’s possible within ethical retail, and we have positively influenced the lives of those within our supply chains. But we can’t change the world on our own. Just the day before the awards, it was announced that more than 50 million people still live in the trappings of modern slavery, and Australians are buying the products made by those enslaved people. Brands need to do better – including those at the awards – so Australians don’t have to purchase those products, and the people within those supply chains can have sustainable livelihoods. Then, and only then, will we see real sustainability in action: the kind that prioritises people, animals and the planet.
Despite thinking I may have pushed the boundaries at an industry award night a little too far, I was stoked to get a thunderous applause. Perhaps more surprising than winning the award was how few people I knew in the room, despite having worked in sustainable retail for over 15 years. There were only three people
that I did recognise, sustainability advocate Peter Knock, Jeremy Meltzer the founder of I=Change (a great platform that has raised millions of dollars for charities) as well as Ben Peacock – the founder of Republic of Everyone (an excellent sustainability-focussed marketing agency) that has helped steer Etiko’s brand ethos. Just those three people in a room filled with hundreds.
This tells me that sustainability no longer involves the same niche group of activists. And I think that’s great because we can’t create monumental change with the usual small percentage of sustainability advocates and customers. We need fresh faces, new ideas and a greater reach – so long as they’re authentic.
For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful for large-scale change, as well as for the future of Etiko.
By winning this award in its inaugural year, we’re setting a precedent for how sustainable retailers will be judged in years ahead. And, we’re proving that the little guy does stand a chance against the big brands – it just takes patience and dedication to your values.
A big thank you to NORA for hosting the awards, and to you -- our customers -- for supporting us over all these years. We couldn’t have done it without you.