Have you ever wondered about the products that you purchase? Where they come from? Who made them? Has our environment been jeopardised through your purchase? Was child labour involved? Is packaging really needed? .....and the list goes on!
If this subject interests you then I encourage you to read this interview with Ainsley Schumacher who is the founder of KNOWN EFFECTS; an online marketplace that is destined to become a one-stop ethical shopping platform.
What is KNOWN EFFECTS?
KNOWN EFFECTS is based on the ‘KNOWN EFFECTS’ of consumerism.
We wanted to create a community that supports businesses both small and large that are making positive changes to the way business is done. We have built an online marketplace that will become a one-stop ethical shopping platform. We are focused on creating a community filled with like-minded people from all areas from artisans, makers, fair-trade advocates to those who are driving the way in sustainable lifestyle products and living. KNOWN EFFECTS want to see small ethical businesses grow and we are driven to work with each brand to make this happen.
Our vision is to create awareness for consumers about the KNOWN EFFECTS of ethical consumerism, along with changing the buyer pattern to adjust how businesses do business and making conscious choices in purchasing more sustainable, longer life-cycled products. We will be doing this through community and social events, v-logging, live chat's, educational talks and travel, spreading the word about what KNOWN EFFECTS is and that we are here to support and grow small ethical businesses.
What motivated you to establish KNOWN EFFECTS
In our travels around the world in our early 20’s, naïve to say the most, we were confronted with atrocious working conditions in some countries we had visited. When we started to look further into the process of how clothing is made in manufacturing companies and we were incredibly disheartened to learn the answer that that ‘bargain’ $3 shirt was actually only possible because of horrendous working conditions, next to nothing pay rates, child labour….these kids would have been the same age as my children now and I look at them and couldn’t imagine having to put them into that environment. Everything about some of these places made us angry, sad but motivated in wanting to make a difference.
Then KNOWN EFFECTS was founded, in 2015. In this time we had taken every step we could to gather as much research and talk to many businesses to evaluate if people needed this type of marketplace in their lives and lucky for us this was definitely missing. In 2016 we started to build the KNOWN EFFECTS marketplace from the ground up.
Our motivation is that the reality is no-person or business is perfect but if we combine our knowledge, experience, failures, achieved goals and grow together so we can help each other reach the same end goal of more ethical & sustainable businesses, products making fair-trade priority on the larger scale and pushing the larger companies to be responsible for their products, including all of their workers and environmental impact.
From ingredients to packaging, have you noticed to shift in consumers favouring natural and organic products over others to achieve a more sustainable life?
Packaging is one of our worst enemies. As consumers we buy a product we want but don’t put much thought into the packaging because we just want what is inside, no real thought about way happens when we throw the packaging away. Annie Leonard quoted that “There is no ‘away’. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere”. She is right, it has to go somewhere, and that place is into our earth, to undeveloped countries that don’t have the resources or capacity to handle the rubbish, into the air we breath and the ocean we are surrounded by. This ‘away’ is slowly coming around full-circle and will impact us all if we don’t take control, educate and enforce changes.
Interestingly, even the 45 – 65 age bracket demonstrate a consumer awareness surrounding the importance of purchasing ethical, natural and/or organic products. It is not only the younger generation who are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of chemicals in our foods, beauty products etc. The shift to purchasing natural and organic products has stemmed from consumers becoming aware of marketing loop holes surrounding product labelling and this education has driven some consumers to properly consider what they are buying, putting into or on their bodies and back into the environment.
For businesses we understand that creating sustainable products can be a major shift in an already made process however when we join forces and give each other guidance we can start to feel confident in making changes to our production to become sustainable, even when it starts with packaging.
How is stocking a brand on KNOWN EFFECTS more sustainable than running their own physical store or online store?
I have personal experience in running both a physical and online store. The main downfall of physical stores is the overheads that are associated with brick and mortar set-up. From electricity to rubbish – a bricks and mortar store has a much higher negative impact on the environment than an online store that lives and breathes in a digital world. Instantly, an online store is more sustainable to our environment than a physical one.
Some new and established businesses are confused and overwhelmed by the digital landscape and struggle to create an online shop that not only functions correctly, but isn’t costly to create and will be visible on search engines to the online shopper. This is another reason that brands like to align to KNOWN EFFECTS as we take care of all this of this in-house. We set up your store and even have an in-house social media expert to help grow the brand online by engaging directly with specific target consumers.
How have KNOWN EFFECTS established a sense of community?
A community is important to KNOWN EFFECTS, like a large family that all have common interests and goals. The KNOWN EFFECTS community is not just the KNOWN EFFECTS brands (sellers) we are a community filling up with other businesses that are striving in the same direction, we are people who want to really make a difference and know that by creating a community will make a much stronger impact, this is what makes our KNOWN EFFECTS community so exciting.
We have started growing our community, networking and talking to other bigger businesses on things we can do and plan for in the future to spread the word about Ethical & Sustainable consumerism. We have recently created a Facebook page for Makers & Designers to have a positive forum for business to grow their businesses by asking questions, posting DIY videos, lessons learnt from mistakes, all the areas small businesses can feel secluded in and unsure on where to approach their questions, we created a non-judgemental forum.
How does aligning with KNOWN EFFECTS increase consumer reach for businesses operating within their first 6 months?
Aligning with KNOWN EFFECTS helps brands find and connect with their ideal customer through networking events, social media, traditional media coverage and more. We provide that extra hand every business needs to reach out to more potential unfound customers. We find this helps businesses, particularly in their first 6-months of trading, as new business owners are too busy to wear every hat from accounting, to marketing, to sales – so we are able to partner with them escalate the process of engaging consumers and take the stress of sales and lead generation out of the first 6-months of operation. This is how we are supporting and growing small Australian businesses.
Talk us through the different types of brands that KNOWN EFFECTS supports
The brands we support under KNOWN EFFECTS range from handmade organic clothing, homewares, sustainable timber products (they grow their own trees!), Eco- home improvement products, food, vegan make-up, organic skincare – the works!
In addition, KNOWN EFFECTS would not be sustainable without an up-cycled category for brands who have the talent to turn things that are heading to landfill into some new, exciting and useful. This further allows us to support sustainable brands and create a hub for consumers to purchase new and reinvented sustainable items.
Talk us through the process; if a new sustainable Australian brand wishes to align with KNOWN EFFECTS, what criteria do they have to meet to be eligible?
KNOWN EFFECTS is application based and product assessed. Unlike other marketplaces that tend to get out of hand with the grey area of ‘Handmade’ we have created an application with a few simple questions upon becoming a vendor via our website. These questions give us an insight into the brand to make sure their core values align with KNOWN EFFECTS and our community. We require all brands to subscribe to World Fair Trade Organisation guidelines and our internal sustainable requirements are that if a product claims to be sustainable, we require information into the life-cycle of the products, materials used and product creation process in order to ensure the products is safe to be promoted via the KNOWN EFFECTS platform. We have a ZERO plastic policy, as one of our biggest goals at KNOWN EFFECTS is to eliminate all plastics in business and we require our brands encompass this same ideology and move toward a plastic-free world.
What are the added bonus benefits of consumers purchasing goods via KNOWN EFFECTS?
The added benefits for consumers purchasing from KNOWN EFFECTS is the knowledge that every product in our marketplace is 100% ethically made and by purchasing via KNOWN EFFECTS consumers are supporting small businesses and most importantly, the environment around them. Furthermore, most of our brand give back to charity too - further instilling a sense of community that cares. Consumers can also get involved in the community at KNOWN EFFECTS and become an advocate for striving toward a world that is fair, ethical and sustainable.
Ainsley, tell us a little bit about yourself. What drives you? What life experiences lead to the decision to launch KNOWN EFFECTS? Do you subscribe to a sustainable way of life?
I reside in Byron Bay, NSW with my amazing family. We are coastal people with compassion for this planet we all share. This is where my drive comes from, my family & our environment. I want to help create a world where it will be clean, safe and a place that is supportive of creatives, designers & makers - not money hungry corporations that only have the dollar in-mind. I can start with my family by teaching our children the importance of keeping our environment and natural resources safe, the bigger picture of shopping local and supporting small businesses and sharing and showing their knowledge with their friends as they grow.
Small businesses drive me. Small business owners’ ideas, passions and how they create their products really excites me. I want to help businesses grow ethically and as sustainably as they can. I feel I am in my comfort zone when I am brain storming with brands on how we can be even better at what we do and how we can get it all out to the world, it’s what made me want to create a marketplace more so than my own product and label.
Our home life is quite environmentally friendly however we are always challenging ourselves to be better, coming up with alternate ideas where we can to make less of a negative impact on the environment. It has kind of become a competition when one of us thinks of something; the other has to go that one bit better – we are always thinking about ways we can become more sustainable.
Why should consumers opt for natural, organic, sustainable products over others?
The reason for choosing natural, organic, sustainable products over products that aren’t are for our own benefit, our environment and the future of our planet.
When we choose products that have ingredients that have been sustainably made we are benefiting ourselves by putting less harmful chemicals and nasties onto and into our body, this varies from beauty products, food, clothing to sanitary products all which are quite often made with harmful ingredients.
When products are made sustainably you are purchasing a product where the environmental impact has been at the forefront of the brands business plan. Not only do sustainable products have a positive impact of the environment but it may also reduce long-term costs to the consumer through stronger, more durable materials.
What is harmful about purchasing a product that is not deemed sustainable? (Sweat shops, workers being paid fairly, product testing methods etc)
‘There is nothing sexy about wearing an item that was made by a child’ - Jennifer Nini
I could talk about this topic without an end, it’s the topic that started KNOWN EFFECTS on it’s mission to make change. We have never been perfect, we still (and I’m sure always will) make mistakes but what we have learnt is to slow down in our purchasing and think before we buy.
In a nutshell, when a product is not sustainable it effects the maker, businesses, the consumers & the environment. The makers are those who are employed by manufacturing or factory companies to make the products. Most face unethical working conditions resulting in a never ending cycle of poverty, child workers, wages below the living costs, health and safety risks and no restriction on working hours – and these are only a handful of ethical standards that aren’t met or followed by some manufactures. In many cases this has resulted in employee suicide.
Purchasing products that are not sustainable keeps these cycles going.