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The only way is ethics: a buyer’s guide

Posted on Jan 1, 2024

Our lowdown on some of the most ethical photography brands and products in the industry

Brand ethics are a company’s moral principles and values that guide its actions. Perhaps it’s seeking to show the customer base that it’s green in the positive sense, meaning it only sources and utilises sustainable materials in the production of its goods, and that it pays its workforce fairly. Or that it plants a tree for every camera sold to offset the hefty carbon footprint involved in the production and transportation of its products around the globe. An ethical brand avoids harm to humans, animals and the environment, conducting business in such a manner as to responsibly contribute to society. 

So, when it comes to the photography industry as a whole, which are the brands we should be rewarding with our custom? Here are a few of our suggestions…

 

Sigma › sigmauk.com

Back in 2019, a report by Ethical Consumer (ethicalconsumer.org) investigated and ranked the ethical and environmental record of 12 of the major camera brands. Sigma came out on top. Throughout 2022 and 2023, Sigma UK has worked with the Eden Reforestation Projects to plant a tree for every camera and lens sold. Naturally this helps to look after our planet, creates new habitats, reduces soil erosion and provides employment to impoverished communities around the world. 

The company states that kindness to the planet has been at the core of its philosophy ever since its foundation in 1961. It adds that all its products are manufactured in one factory in Japan, so its production chain is geographically contained and its environmental footprint is relatively small. 

It further tells us that it’s actively investing in facilities that likewise reduce environmental impact, and adopting production processes and technologies that avoid a cost-first mentality. Examples include the adoption of trivalent chromium (used for chrome plating and requiring less energy than alternatives) and simplified packaging. It’s also working hard to preserve the natural environment at its head office and factory. 

Hobolite › hobolite.com

This company’s attractively designed and feature-packed LED lights may feature unique vintage styling including a leather look to their side panels, but we’re told no cattle have been harmed to achieve such a finish. In fact, only faux leather is used in the detailing, this being more ethically responsible than real leather. The products are also claimed to feature a lot of hard-wearing but replaceable parts, so these can be refreshed as and when needed, rather than the whole device being binned. In short, the lights are designed to be used sustainably for a long period of time. As a company, Hobolite tells us it generates 200,000kWh of solar power energy each year, reducing its carbon footprint by 140 tons of CO2. Plus, the product packaging is made of recycled materials. Illuminating, in more ways than one.

CEWE › cewe.co.uk

Naturally, being a company that specialises in paper and print, eco-friendliness and sustainability has long been at the centre of CEWE’s offering. The company tells us that, since 2013, it’s held certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the international non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection and management of the world’s forests. 

Adhering to the FSC’s principle, all paper that CEWE uses originates from responsibly managed forests. Additionally, among the digital printing papers it offers for inclusion in a CEWE Photobook is a 100% recycled paper option. This has a silky matte finish and otherwise produces a similar result to the classic paper, also in the same range.

Its A4, A3 and A2 wall calendars are now available on 100% recycled paper, described as groundbreaking in terms of blending beauty and sustainability. Made from 100% recycled pulp, the paper’s brilliant-white base is said to enhance print fidelity with its aim being to bring out the best in your photos. Being eco-friendly doesn’t mean compromising on quality.

Find out more at cewe.co.uk.

See the rest of our suggested ethical brands in Issue 112 of Photography News.

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