Supplier case studies

Natural Collection - green wedding gift lists

Natural Collection - green wedding gift lists

Tell us a bit about yourselves and the business:
The company was formed in 1999 by Joanne & Julian Spector with a vision to create a distribution platform to support sustainable innovation and ideas.

By offering a wide selection of ecologically considered products and services we hope to reach as wide an audience as possible.

In this way, we hope to demonstrate that the basic power of consumer choice can make commercially viable a growing range of top quality ecological products, even within a competitive and well established market place; products which use modern technology to harness nature's benefits without exploiting her resources; products which can represent our 21st Century vision where trade is fair and poverty is alleviated through sustainable income generation; and ultimately and ideally, products where holistic consideration stretches right from their inception through their manufacturing process, to the benefit for the end user and eventually to their recyclability and/or bio-degradability.

Natural Collection - green wedding gift lists
We work with renowned environmental expert Edwin Datchefski, who has been consulting on product design and sustainability since 1994. Edwin independently assesses all products against our carefully considered criteria: Eco, Organic, Fair and Sustainable Trade, Natural Living and Well Being. You can read more about these on our website in our 5 Dot Guides and in our ‘About Us' sections.

We are the UK's leading non-food ecological retailer and are proud to be the official catalogue for Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Trees for Life, Out of This World, The Vegetarian Society, Compassion in World Farming and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

Thus far we have raised and contributed over £300,000 for environmental and other worthy causes.

Through our constant research and analysis of market viability and ecological criteria, we update many suppliers about the use of better environmental materials and the importance of careful sourcing from ingredients to base materials and the best use of innovative eco-alternatives for product manufacture.

  • We have watched niche specialist alternative suppliers whom we have nurtured and supported become accepted into mainstream retailers.
  • When few people were aware of the toxicity of NiCad batteries we were convincing suppliers to change them to NiMH
  • Before it was widely recognised that PVC was a pollutant we were researching alternatives and encouraging suppliers to change their packaging and material wherever possible.
  • We commissioned research into the problems created by the palm oil industry and issued documents to all our suppliers explaining Friends of the Earth's concerns about its role in rainforest depletion
  • We have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds supporting fair trade communities worldwide and have received heart-warming responses about what those purchases have meant to their communities.
  • We were one of the first publications in the UK to print on post-consumer waste paper - that's the paper we all throw away (which has greater environmental benefits than simply using off-cuts from paper mills) when sourcing such paper was difficult and expensive.
  • We have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on up front purchases of organic cotton at a time when it was expensive and difficult to acquire. We have watched organic cotton change from an obscure luxury to a regular commodity in many retail outlets.
Natural Collection - green wedding gift lists
By buying in volume such a variety of products we have given many small and dedicated suppliers the confidence to produce, change specifications and continue their ecological innovations, secure in the knowledge that our volume purchasing can take their products to the market and make them viable.

We did this because ultimately we believe that as consumers we have a tremendous power to shape the future of our world. Each and every individual choice, no matter how small, can contribute to a tremendous sway towards an optimistic vision, where we continue to enjoy the benefits of our creative discoveries and inventions but at the same time, participate in a collective drive towards environmental stability and harmony with the rest of nature.

We believe that environmental awareness does not have to mean the deprivation of the benefits our modern society has grown to enjoy, but rather adds a new and exciting dimension to the definition of leading edge technology, innovative design and a vision for a new and braver world.

What or who inspires you?
The fact we can and are all making a difference. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

What do you enjoy most about running your business?
Feeling part of the solution, and not the problem, in everything we try to achieve, we are not perfect of course but every action in our business is guided by our overall philosophy of not being judgemental and in helping people take the next step along the path.

What is the most challenging aspect?
Making green more mainstream really and keeping it commercially viable so we can carry on doing what we do.

What do you feel you bring to an ethical wedding?
Our wedding list service is great stuff and our range we feel is second to none. You won't find just anything on our site - we are more of a green John Lewis than an eco Tesco. But if you are looking for fabulous homeware, bedlinen, towels and so on then you simply must browse our range. We hope you find something to inspire...

How do you see the wedding industry changing over the next five years (if at all)?
Well the ethical choices available are clearly going to blossom across all areas of the wedding industry and that can only be a good thing.

  • Stop Press: Natural Collection has just won the Observer Ethical Award for Best Online Retailer for the third year in a row!

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