With Christmas just around the corner, gift buying is in full swing. If you’re looking to get more from your presents this year, I’ve found the best ethical and sustainable gifts on offer from some incredible social enterprises, so you can feel good and do good this Christmas.
Here’s my list of amazing brands and their products that give back.
Aerende is an online shop selling beautiful products and gifts for the home, all of them made in the UK by people facing social challenges. You can think of it as a special place to find a range of carefully crafted products from around the British Isles, created by makers who are unable to access or maintain conventional employment. The company was founded in 2016 by Emily Mathieson, a former travel editor for The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveller and Red. A passion for beautiful, useful, locally made homewares led her to question the lack of high-quality options in the ethical interiors sector. Thus began a quest to create a model for considerate, socially valuable shopping that doesn’t compromise on quality or style.
These candle jars make the perfect sustainable stocking filler. They’re filled with natural rapeseed wax, a sustainable and non-toxic alternative to standard paraffin or soya wax candles, and have wooden wicks. Each tin is hand-poured in Wales by people with learning disabilities at Beacons Creative (see their Makers page for more details); all purchases of this candle help support this amazing social impact company. Get yours for £14.50 here.
Nemi Teas is a London based tea company offering a variety of whole leaf Fairtrade tea blends, available as both loose leaf tea and as biodegradable, plastic-free tea pyramids. The social enterprise aims to create positive change through business by employing refugees, helping them better integrate in the UK. Employees run tea stalls across London food markets, festivals, events and conferences, allowing them to improve their English speaking skills, regain confidence and work on other skills required to enter the UK job market. Nemi Teas also employs refugees within their business to perform commercial roles, including sales & marketing, events, packaging and distribution. As a solely impact driven enterprise, more than 50% of their profits are re-invested back into the company to help them achieve their goals.
If you know an Earl Grey fan, Nemi Tea’s Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certified blend is another great gift, either in a stocking or as part of a festive hamper. This blend is an inspiring fusion of high-grown leaf tea, bergamot and cornflowers, with a delicious full-bodied base from the Nilgiri district in Southern India. The biodegradable tea pyramids allow the tea leaves to unfurl and infuse properly for a delicious, full-flavoured cup. Prices range from £4.50 for 15 tea bags to £35.00 for a 1kg bag.
Another London based tea loving social enterprise is Hackney Herbal. Established in 2015, the company set out on a mission to show people how to incorporate herbs into their lifestyles, for health and improved wellbeing. As well as designing and delivering events and workshops to teach people about the extensive uses of herbs, Hackney Herbal also creates unique herbal tea blends from the herbs they grow across a patchwork of sites around Hackney. The sale of these teas help fund free community activities in the local area, bringing people together to learn, share knowledge and be inspired. You can read more about their social impact here.
Hackney Herbal’s PICK ME UP blend of lemon verbena, marshmallow, rosemary, lime mint & yarrow herbal infusion makes an ideal stocking filler for anyone in need of a refresh. Grown, harvested and packaged by volunteer hands in Hackney during summer 2018, you can get your pack of six unbleached teabags for £3 here.
Based in East London, and with a traditional workshop in the Lake District, The Soap Co. is a social enterprise that creates bath and beauty products with sophisticated fragrances, minimalist design and a strong social and environmental ethos. They provide training and work opportunities for people who are visually impaired, have disabilities or are otherwise disadvantaged – and all of their profits go back into their business so that they can continue to provide these opportunities and more like them.
The Soap Co.’s 100% natural bath and body oils are made by hand and are scented with pure botanicals to lift your mood, detoxify your mind and renew your emotional and spiritual balance. The bottles are frosted glass, and can be recycled or reused – great news for the plastic free eco-warriors among us. You can choose from a range of scents and gift boxes, ranging from £20 for a 100ml bottle to £55 for a set of three – plus lots of other goodies in between. Check out the full collection here.
Wear your heart on your feet with Critically Endangered Socks. Inspired by his time in Borneo, and disturbed by the levels of environmental destruction he witnessed there over the years, Dom Desmond set up Critically Endangered Socks initially to help provide a Borneo based NGO with funds to help protect the rainforest. Since then, the social enterprise (and its mission) has evolved – and they now hope to eventually help every critically endangered animal on the brink of survival by selling beautifully crafted and ethical socks, made from a blend of 40% bamboo, 40% cotton, 15% polyester and 5% spandex.
For every pair sold, Critically Endangered Socks give 20% of the total sale price to charity; by choosing which sock you buy, you’re also choosing which charity they help. From the Borneo Orangutan and the Sumatran Elephant to the Hawkbill Turtle and the Maui Dolphin – I’m pretty sure there’s a pair here for everyone. Prices start at £12 for one pair – or why not get all five for £48? Buy socks, help save a species. Simple.
If you’re more of a people person, then have no fear – Stand4Socks is a social enterprise that aims to change the world with socks (with a focus on the Sustainable Development Goals). Of all the social enterprises listed here, in all honesty, Stand4Socks has to be my favourite simply because of the range of social and environmental causes they support (and as a huge advocate of the SDGs, they’ve really won my heart).
Currently, their ethically sourced socks support 11/17 of the SDGs (allowing you to stand for a different cause each day of the week, and still have some in the wash). Each goal is represented by a small cause logo on the ankle of the sock, from education to gender quality and much more; your sock purchase could be powering a hospital, clearing landmines, planting trees or much, much more.
Not only this, but Stand4Stocks also work with homeless shelters, nonprofits, and organisations dedicated to helping the homeless, in-need, and at-risk communities. Their ‘Homeless’ socks work on a one for one basis – so when you buy a pair, they donate a specially made pair of thick, durable socks to someone in need.
There are SO many styles and causes to choose from (in Bamboo, Twisted Cotton or Combed Cotton), but my personal favourites would have to be the Oxford Layered Twisted Cotton Sock and the Micro Loan socks (which help fund farming projects in South America and Africa) – equally for their design and for the causes they support. However, I very much recommend you go on their site and pick a pair that help support a cause close to your heart. If you’re struggling to choose, there are Gift Boxes available (£34.99 – £39.99), so you can get three different pairs in a jazzy FSC box. Stand4Socks also currently have a sale on with prices starting at just £7.99 – so what are you waiting for?
Y.O.U underwear is a business with a purpose beyond profit: to help customers make a difference in the world with nothing but Your Own Underwear. In 2016, founder Sarah Jordan travelled to East Africa to take part in the Uganda marathon. Shocked at the number of women and children she met who didn’t have access to underwear (resulting in exclusion from school, work and their communities – especially during their periods), Sarah decided she wanted to launch her own brand operating under the one-for-one model to help address this problem; and so Y.O.U was born.
Y.O.U donates a percentage of the profit from each piece of underwear they sell to their partners Smalls for All, a charity who collect and distribute underwear to women and children across Africa. As well as being made from super-soft, 100% Fairtrade GOTS certified organic cotton, each pair of underwear also contains a positive message designed to inspire and bring confidence to the wearer. To top it all off, each pair is delivered in a reusable organic cotton bag.
Available in both men and women’s, prices start at £10 for one pair, and they come in grey, black or nude and in a range of styles. My personal favourite is the women’s organic cotton boy short, which cost £15. Why not go all out, and get the organic cotton bralette to match?
Last on my list (but by no means least) is Tommy & Lottie, a unisex baby, kids and adult clothing and lifestyle brand, specialising in ethically and sustainably made clothing and wall prints. As well as being unisex (big thumbs up from me), this brand is also non-seasonal, so can be worn all year round.
Tommy & Lottie have a whole range of amazing products. I absolutely love their ‘Help The Orangutans’ Sweatshirt, for both adults and kids, made from organic grey marl cotton and embroidered with a fluffy haired orangutan. For every sweatshirt sold, Tommy & Lottie will donate £4 to the Sumatran Orangutan Society, helping protect this critically endangered species and their forests. Kids’ sizes range from 3-4 to 12-14, and cost £35.00, while adult sizes range from small (8-10 ladies) to XXL (16-18 ladies) and cost £45.00.
If you’re after even more inspiration, don’t forget to head to over to www.atlasandortus.co.uk. Our bamboo toothbrushes are now £3.80 each, and we plant a tree for every brush sold.