Written by Lauren Smith - 29th September 2021

What do all these eco words mean?
A simple guide to sustainability terminology

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What do all these eco words mean? What is a social enterprise? What makes a product Fairtrade or Organic, is there criteria or standards that have to be met?

These are all understandable questions and if you’re a little confused, we totally understand! With so many eco terms being used nowadays and many of them meaning similar yet slightly different things, it’s easy to see how they can blend into one.

In this blog post, we take a look at some of the most frequent terminology used in our industry, both business and product-related, and break it down for you.

 We hope you find this helpful!

Glossary of eco terms

Biodegradable 
Biodegradable means that an item can be broken down by bacteria, fungi, or microbes to be reabsorbed by the surrounding environment, ideally without causing any pollution.

Carbon Neutral
Carbon Neutral means that any CO2 released into the atmosphere from a company's activities is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed.

Certified B Corp
B Corporation certification (assessed by the not-for-profit B Lab) is given to for-profit organisations that achieve at least a minimum score against a set of social and environmental standards.
   
Certified Social Enterprise
Certification is given to a social enterprise by an accreditation authority (e.g Social Enterprise UK) when it has met all of its requirements.

Charity
A charity is an organisation set up for charitable purposes such as raising money for those in need.

Conscious Consumerism
Sometimes known as ethical consumerism, this describes a consumer’s buying habits that are led by a commitment to making a positive social, economic, or environmental impact.

Compostable
Compostable is used to describe a product that can disintegrate into non-toxic, natural elements.

Environmentally friendly
Another word for eco friendly, it means not harmful to the environment. When it comes to products, that means everything from production to packaging needs to be safe for the environment. 

Ethical/ Ethically Made
Ethical products are ones created without using any type of process material, person, animal in an unethical or immoral way. 

Fairtrade
Fairtrade is a system of certification that aims to ensure a set of standards are met in the production of a product or ingredient. For farmers and workers, this means workers’ rights, fair pay, and safe working conditions. For consumers, this means high-quality, ethically produced products.

Organic
Organic food is the product of a farming system that avoids the use of man-made fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, and livestock feed additives. In order to be labeled as organic, at least 95% of the ingredients must come from organically products plants, or animals.

Social Enterprise
Social enterprise has no legal definition and is used differently around the world. What is generally agreed upon is that social enterprises are businesses that are driven by a social or environmental cause. Many use their profits to change people’s lives by tackling social problems, improving communities or the environment.

Social Venture Business
This is often used interchangeably with a social enterprise and is a business prioritising environmental or social impact.

Social entrepreneur
A social entrepreneur is a person who is interested in starting a business for the greater social good and not just for profit. They may seek to produce environmentally friendly products, serve an underserved community or focus on philanthropic activities.

Sustainability
Sustainability focuses on the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations. It encourages consumers and businesses to frame their choices in terms of environmental, social, and human impact for the long-term, rather than on short-term gains, for example, manufacturing a product that doesn’t deplete natural resources.

Sustainable Development
Sustainable development is the idea that human societies must live and meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.Specifically, sustainable development is a way of organizing society so that it can exist in the long term.

Zero Waste
Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. On its most basic level, the goal of zero waste is to push economies towards the target of sending no waste to landfills, incinerators, or the ocean. 

We hope you enjoyed this blog post and that it helped provide some clarity on frequently used eco terminology in our industry. If you feel like we have missed anything then do let us know and we can update you with more terms in a future blog post.

If you would like to discover more sustainable tips, check out our blog post on our top 5 tips to make your office more sustainable.

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