By &Open x The Terrace Jul 12, 2022
Gifts drive happiness. Whether they spark surprise, serve as a vehicle for care or nurture special connections, they naturally make people smile. Due to their instantaneous effect, it’s easy to only think about the positive impact they have. However, we’re no fools to the fact that all this happiness comes at a cost. At &Open, we’re setting out to make gifting not only a joyful act, but a responsible one, too.
What’s at stake?
Gifting as a love language can come with a receipt of considerate social-environmental impact. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s in 2021, the US EPA reported a 25% increase in household waste, equating to approximately 1,000 extra pounds of trash. Across the pond it’s no different. In the UK, 21 million people receive at least one unwanted gift each Christmas, with around 5% percent thrown away shortly after. Don’t even get us started on returning gifts… In the US, retail returns generate an estimated 15 million tons of carbon emissions every year by way of shipping. That’s the equivalent of driving three million cars for a year.
Careless campaigns that evoke mass consumerism and materialistic behaviors only reinforce this trend. We’re constantly targeted by ads as we scroll, and that’s paired with environmental doomsdays like Black Friday — the yearly fuel added to the fire of mindless and wasteful spending. With all these challenges, it’s hard to know where to look.
Better gifting awaits
To start acting right, we used last year to look inwards. Through conversations among our team, but also by talking to a broad pool of people who share our mission in bringing better gifting at scale. We’ve listened to our suppliers, customers, investors and employees, and together selected key responsibility topics to work on. Some help us take extra care of potential risks, and some are actionable ways we can be a vehicle for change. Either way, it’s a promise not only to ourselves, but to everyone who supports us.
This process provided us with a clear aim. “Better gifting” isn’t just about nice gifts, but rather a holistic approach that prioritizes the planet first, and people always.
This is our reset on gifting and a re-think on giving. To do so, we’ve formed three sustainability promises that provide real paths towards becoming a platform that fuels responsible gifting. We’re pleased to introduce you to them below, as they guide us towards better gifting, at scale, for companies that care about both planet and people.
A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
Promise 1: Sourcing sustainably-made, long-lasting gifts
We're a picky bunch of people. Our gifts are carefully curated and delightfully bespoke, and in our minds “responsible gifting” means we have to consider the sourcing, shipping and impact gifts have on the environment and society.
Since the beginning of 2022, we only select sustainable gifts and suppliers based on a list of sustainability attributes (i.e. recyclability, sustainable material uses and support of social or environmental initiatives). This way we ensure the gifts we choose score highly on various sustainability attributes.
On top of that, we screen our suppliers to avoid any risky business practices. Gifts need to be kind to the earth throughout the entire production process. For instance, we don’t send gifts that have been tested on animals, and always do our research to uncover and avoid suppliers that source materials from countries with high labor risks.
In our Responsible Sourcing Policy, we outline 20 sustainability topics, depending on the type of gift and its raw materials, onto which a supplier is evaluated. This evaluation is done through an extensive questionnaire, where we request relevant information on materials and manufacturing methods to ensure our standards are being upheld via our brand partners.
It goes without saying that working with like-minded people is extremely important to us. So if a supplier doesn’t properly align with our standards and policies, we reevaluate the relationship, as they indirectly represent our work and overall ESG goals.
Promise 2: Shipping gifts with planet-friendly processes and materials
Our aim is to leave a large impact with a small footprint. To do this, we work closely with our logistical partners to use the most sustainable shipping and packing methods possible. At the moment, we’re working on assessing and improving the carbon footprint of our operations. This includes a reduction plan (more details to come), which will be followed by actions to offset unavoidable emissions.
Offsetting is pretty complex and carbon removal is not exactly our expertise. So, we partnered up with Patch. They accurately track any carbon emissions created in the gift delivery process and sequester the carbon impact for each transaction for us through their platform of accredited carbon offset projects. One of our favorites is Running Tide, a seaweed farm off the coast of Maine that sequesters 20 times more carbon than forests.
To minimize our own impact, our team is constantly educating themselves on how they can implement sustainability best practices both professionally and personally. By using an educational program called Vyra, we can better understand the ESG landscape and simultaneously empower ourselves to do better on a daily basis (i.e. with the food we eat, how we travel, even how we work at the office). With 100% of the team participating, we’ve saved 6,525.6kg of CO2 emissions so far. That’s the equivalent of charging around 800,000 phones. These savings are based on challenges that each team must complete. For example, the aim of the week could be to reduce the environmental impact of home appliances through “The Air-Dry Challenge”. The more often team members commit to air-drying their clothes, the more points they receive.
Patch and Vyra are examples of partners that help us tread a little bit lighter and guide us down this second route towards responsible gifting. Less work, smaller footprint, larger impact.
Promise 3: Encouraging positive social and environmental impact through gifting
Care and connection can be displayed in intangible ways and sometimes, the perfect gift is an effort towards selflessness. We love to design gifting campaigns with our customers that provide a moment of inspiration, reflection or action towards social and environmental causes. For us, this looks like organizing campaigns around Black History Month and Pride, working with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ makers, and supporting female-founded small businesses.
Another way we measure impact: through cause (donation) gifting. Starting at the beginning of 2022, all clients can donate to their charity of choice without being charged any handling fees. In 2022 (YTD) our customers have donated a value of $4,200 in the form of cause gifts to charities like WWF, Black Girls Code, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Environmental Defense Fund. In support of Ukraine, we partnered with the Red Cross, Voices of Children Ukraine and Choose Love and added these organizations to our clients' platforms so they could prompt recipients to donate, too. But we of course don’t leave all the charitable generosity to our customers. This year, &Open as a company donated a total of $15,300, including $9,100 in support of Ukraine.
You have our word
There you have it — our three sustainability promises. Pillars that will guide us towards a more responsible gifting lifecycle with a couple of insights into our current state of affairs.
One important thing to note: the above strategy is a work in progress. There will always be improvements to be made. But its unpolished state doesn’t mean we won’t transparently share all the actions as we take from now moving forward. We have to remind ourselves that small steps lead to big change; that it’s really about focusing on doing what you can, where you can, whenever you can. So that's what we’ll do.