We dump 6 million tonnes of plastic every year and more than 8 million children living in urban slums come in close proximity of the harmful waste. Isn’t it time that we say no to plastic and yes to plastic-free lifestyle?
Brown Living, a one-stop-shop for everything ethical and plastic-free, aims to help the customers’ transition into an earth-friendly lifestyle starting from their home. It aspires to be the preferred destination for those who want to make informed choices and shop consciously, with least damage to the environment. Apparel Resources (AR) gets into a candid conversation with Chaitsi Ahuja, Founder, Chief Curator & CEO, Brown Living to understand the brand’s philosophy and how it is making sustainable practices and sustainability an easy-to-follow lifestyle choice.
“There are good days and bad days. I honestly appreciate all those who are voicing their opinions to demand a change in the way our policy and laws operate with respect to the environment – but we need more backing and support. It’s a world crisis and we all must do everything in our power to make a change – whether it is to help communities like Fridays for Future and Climate activists or to make small switches in our lifestyle. Additionally, there are a lot of confusing theories around sustainability practices and that’s a major part of the awareness that we need to bring about,” Chaitsi says.
Chaitsi further mentions that a large part of urban audiences with higher disposable incomes have got used to the ‘convenience’ of urban packaged goods. This has made it increasingly difficult and almost inaccessible for them to switch to a low waste lifestyle. It’s about time that we bring back some of our old ways and reduce our waste as individuals. Especially in the post-Covid world, there are already so much single use hygiene products that are/will not even get recycled, and put a lot of pressure on the already polluted waste management systems we have.
Brown Living is an Indian e-commerce marketplace (aggregator) for all things sustainable. As an organisation, it curates products that are sustainable, natural, upcycled, handmade, recycled, thrifted, earth-friendly and are an alternative to plastic products used for lifestyle needs and at home. It picks and chooses exclusively sustainable brands and works towards educating the consumers about sustainable practices used by their sellers, their framework and research in the space and constantly collaborates with authentic people who work in this space to create that awareness.
The brand supports ‘Made in India’ and ‘Made for India’, by women entrepreneurs, artisans and marginalised communities – as they want to promote a self-sustaining economy where innovation is created at home (indigenous technology and craft put to use for low impact consumption).
Brown Living’s vision and mission are aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals i.e., Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life Below Water and Life on Land. Aligned with these goals, Brown Living’s approach is not only to curate the right products, but also save the customer from getting duped by the wrong claims put forward by certain brands. So, if you want to transition into the sustainable way of living, then Brown Living is the place to shop for all your needs. This saves time and effort and the customer does not have to go through the pain of searching for reputed brands on their own, at numerous places.
Onboarding the seller
Brown Living is a platform for artists, craftsmen, artisans and small businesses who make sustainable products of various types. They are a team of earth advocates, aiming to promote a sustainable way of living. As Chaitsi admits that most of sustainable living comes from the idea of jugaad that our grandparents used to practise, so it is now time to go back to our roots.
In an effort to bring to the customer truly sustainable products, the team follows stringent seller onboarding framework. From a thorough application form submission that lists the whole idea of the brand and its philosophy, the team interviews and reviews the seller’s processes in detail to understand their sustainability claims. Post that, a verification of certifications also happens to further reinstate the claim made by the seller. Once the team is satisfied with the seller and their products, the offering is shortlisted, checked and further curated for the customer. Brown Living observes stringent legal terms and is serious about the sustainability approaches, so unless a seller meets all their parameters, they are not curated or onboarded on the portal.
In fact, keeping the consumer and community’s needs in mind, Brown Living has devised the ‘The Brown Lens’. This is a proprietary framework that is the basis of the product selection and curation process. Their curator’s council uses the framework to identify the right products for a conscious customer, ask the right questions to creators and evaluate a product in a holistic manner.
Fulfilling the need gap
“While certifications do help in convincing consumers, they are not the only aspect for a customer’s decision-making process. There are a lot of other factors that come into play – the brand values, sourcing and people practices, mission and vision, aesthetics and the product’s usability as well. The eco-friendly/green industry has been a largely unorganised market for the past few decades. With the advent of e-commerce regulations and growth in sales by D2C brands, it has become increasingly important for individual brands to be ‘Transparent’, source from the right suppliers and acquire certifications relevant to the category. However, it is a costly affair and businesses which are operating at a small scale have, needless to say, a limited amount of funding/resources/support from a consumer base at this point,” Chaitsi highlights.
She also mentions that the consumer has been demanding more transparency, driving action by taking initiative and reaching out to them with ideas and curious questions about processes, people behind the brand. Understanding this need gap, she says that not only Brown Living but others should also take the onus of verifying the authenticity for the consumers. In fact, it is important for brands to let the customer know the story behind a hefty price tag that most of the sustainable brands pay. Anything coming easy on the pocket may not be a sustainable or lifelong investment. So, when switching to sustainable living, cost plays a big role and that is why Chaitsi and her team always tries to curate a range of products on varied price tags, which lets the customer choose their pick as per their budget.
With more than 160 brands available on their portal, Brown Living has built a strong customer base of over 20,000 spread all across India. Chaitsi says, “We have a long way to go and there is so much to learn from other countries (Singapore, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Denmark). We need to influence policies to ensure the Governments start to evaluate their policies against delivery of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. At a time when climate change is a subject of heated political debate, businesses and brands too need to mainstream sustainability. Even as executives face tighter scrutiny to their bottom lines and returns on investment, consumers must demand their experiences include recycling, energy efficiency and a small carbon footprint. For consumers to demand this, there must be awareness. If campaigns against climate action are shut down, how will we ever change?
Sustainable consumption is not just about changing behaviour but also about a shift in mindset.”