Hey, so what actually is 1% for the planet?

A network verifies donations and ensures brands are true to their commitment, creating a dynamic cycle of accountability. 

Words Hannah Cole

1% for the Planet”: it’s the Insta bio mention I come across on a near-daily basis, a grouping signifier like the ubiquitous #vegan. Differentiating the two is my level of understanding, though. Vegan? Easy. But 1% has become an unwitting marker for my sustainable choices; I’ve never really understood its meaning. In the name of education and wise decisions, I decided it was time to quit hoping for the best and see what the line is all about. 

Initially started in 2002, 1% for the Planet is far from a new concept. The network is the brainchild of Yvon Chouinard, the renowned founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, the founder of Blue Ribbon Flies (fly fishing specialists). 

For me and many others interested in Earth-friendly fashion, Patagonia has been the guiding light when it comes to sustainability in both business and apparel. Under Chouinard and his team, the brand has pushed the boundaries and promoted a lifestyle and spending habits that respect the natural world — whether it be the surf, the snow, or the mountains. They’ve encouraged us not to buy (as per the now iconic Black Friday campaign), repair our clothes, and to choose less harmful materials. To say Patagonia has changed the way we view the industry as a whole is an understatement. 

The network has the best of the best behind it, then. I trust the founders, I trust their vision, but what does it do? I chatted to a couple of local brands about being part of the global concept and the impacts to understand.

The plant-based cleaning products company, Koala Eco, has had the environment and ethics front and centre from inception, but as the label puts it, “We wanted Koala Eco to ‘walk the walk.’” More than offering a safe product, the brand also demonstrates a “personal commitment to avoiding harm to the planet” through this involvement.  

Ettitude, the purveyor of luxe bamboo sheeting, notes a similar idea. “It provides a level of certainty to our customers that we live our values,” Global Campaign Manager Jessica Pang says. 1% for the Planet also vets charities, taking the guesswork out of which to support and how best to do so. Ettitude’s decision to join the network “was much more about being transparent with our customers and sharing our commitment to the planet.” It’s an active way to demonstrate environmental leaning within an upheld framework — 1% for the Planet verifies donations and ensures brands are true to their commitment, creating a dynamic cycle of accountability. 

Each partnering business (now part of a global network), pledges to contribute 1% of gross sales to environmental action — anywhere in the world. First, there is an approval process; this isn’t a label that any old brand can smack on their Instagram to drive some more traffic and sales from well-meaning consumers. For a business, this acceptance is an indicator of measuring up to standard. 

1% for the Planet focuses on six key environmental areas with a global perspective: wildlife, pollution, water, food, climate, and land. In Australia alone, Koala Eco notes the support of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, bushfire relief following 2020’s first punch to the guts, and backing other non-profits like 1 Million Women, The Wilderness Society, and Clean Up Australia. For Ettitude, this has also meant involvement in Black Lives Matter, and OzHarvest food relief programmes due to Covid-19. 

As consumers, purchasing from a verified 1% for the Planet partner is a straightforward way to actively contribute to positive action in the world. In our act of purchasing, we are concurrently supporting organisations deemed to make real and significant change. In a roundabout way, it’s a way of making our consumption worthwhile. With a growing list of businesses on board, it’s not that hard to find what you are looking for either. Alongside Koala Eco and Ettitude, other local brands include: The Bare Road, Boody, Bondi Born, Hakea Swim, Zulu and Zephyr, and Love Tea.

After the year we have had, the importance and imperativeness of such a concept is only clearer. “During lockdowns, we’ve already been made aware of the importance of nature and green spaces to our mental and physical wellbeing,” a representative for Koala Eco says. “If the natural world comes under any more threat, humankind will be lost. A heightened consciousness in consumer choices is an inevitable consequence of living more mindfully… and consumers will become way more discriminating about environmentally friendly purchase choices. Bring it on.”

To which I say, Amen.