Written by Maithreyi Ramdas and Deven Nelson, Co-Founders of People Heart Planet: An online shopping platform that connects conscious fashion consumers with sustainable and ethical brands.
There’s a famous quote by American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead that goes: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, this is the only thing that ever has.” Singapore isn’t a likely place to find these words in action as the government is wary of citizen advocacy, but it’s where we met working alongside a savvy group of local and international citizens committed to fighting climate change.
Climate Conversations goal was to facilitate 1,000 at-home, small-group conversations amongst friends and neighbors about climate change. After volunteer trainings, we would meet up for coffee and think about the facilitator’s questions: Why does climate change matter to me? How does it impact my family? What can I really do to make a difference?
Just as the creators of Climate Conversations suspected, talking helped us connect the dots between our individual choices and the bigger issue. We know that systemic change is ultimately needed to stop climate change, but we started to realize that decisions we made about food, transportation, where we bank, where we shop and who we give our money to matters. Companies can’t exist if we stop buying what they’re selling. When we asked ourselves if the way we shop really reflects our values and hopes for the future, and more importantly for our children’s futures, the answer was obvious. No.
The journey from passive citizen to active volunteer was an easy one compared to the journey from passive buyer to conscious consumer. Singapore is jam-packed with malls and shops, but only a handful of these have sustainably and ethically-made products. Even more frustrating was searching online for sustainable and ethical options. How do we know if a brand is really sustainable or if they are just greenwashing? How do we know if they ship to us? How many blog articles do we have to read and screenshots do we have to take to get the answers! Why wasn’t there an ethical alternative to mainstream e-commerce sites like Amazon or Target to make all of this easier!
We were creating google docs and spreadsheets to store our carefully gathered information when we realized that maybe we were the ones who should build a platform that helps people discover and shop fair trade and sustainable brands. That’s how our journey went from activists to ethical consumers to social entrepreneurs!
We built People Heart Planet as an aggregator site. Think Kayak or Expedia, but instead of flights and hotels, you’ll find fair trade jeans and sustainable shoes. Like other aggregator sites, you see a vast amount of information and options all in one place, saving you time and the hassle of searching multiple sites. Because we are an aggregator, we are a tool more than a retailer. We don’t sell you the goods. We just give you the information, vetted and verified personally by us, so that you can easily make choices that fit your values and lifestyle.
A brand must at least be fair trade or sustainable to be included on the platform, but we let users know if they are also vegan and organic since we know a lot of people care about these issues too. We consider standards like living wages, safe working conditions, transparent supply chains, circular manufacturing processes, carbon neutral production, vegan and biomaterials, amongst others. We read through company websites and sustainability reports and research third-party verifications like Good On You. It’s easy when a brand is certified by accreditors like the World Fair Trade Organization and PETA, but we know this isn’t always possible for small vendors and start-ups. That’s why we take the time to read the fine print and email the brands directly. It’s not enough that a brand carries an organic line or, like H&M, is dipping their toe in the sustainability movement. A brand has to have people and the planet at the heart of their mission. Hence our name, People Heart Planet.
Promoting these brands on our site not only helps the eco-conscious consumer discover them, but also helps the brand’s visibility and bottom line by providing them a platform to showcase their products and potentially reach a wider audience. Our goal is for ethical and conscious brands to become accessible to the regular shopper, and eventually become mainstream.
Even though we are excited to be social entrepreneurs, we will always see ourselves as activists who believe in cooperation and collaboration more than competition. In our minds, People Heart Planet is more than a shopping platform. We are joining a growing movement for economic, environmental and racial justice. When we as consumers change our habits to buy from ethical companies, we’re taking action to fight climate change, protect our air and water, end extreme poverty, advance women’s rights, promote racial equality, improve health equity, protect animal welfare and so much more. We know one person’s actions aren’t enough to solve these giant problems, but, as Ms. Mead said, collective action is the driving force of social change. We’re thrilled to be a part of that positive movement and can’t wait to see where this journey continues to take us.
Click here to visit People Heart Planet.