Transcript for Episode 23: Beeanco – Sustainable Shopping Made Easy (Mini)

This is the transcript of Episode 23: Beeanco – Sustainable Shopping Made Easy (Mini) of the How to Make a Difference podcast. Go to the episode page to listen to this episode and for the show notes. Furthermore, we encourage you to read our blog post on conscious consumption.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Hey everyone.

Alicia Lee: Hi everyone. These past few episodes we’ve been talking a lot about conscious consumption. So we started off first with the circular economy and how that’s different from our current model. Then we talked about how we can reduce our consumption, and then what you can do when you cannot reduce? But let’s say you’re not able to reduce, and you’re not able to buy something secondhand or rent something, then what can we do?

Elisabeth Ignasiak: And in those cases, you have to buy something new. But buying something new can be done in many ways. And today we want to talk about how to buy more sustainably. 

But before we jump into the topic, please hit pause, go to the show notes, click on the survey link and fill out our survey. And it’s really short. It’s very simple questions. For example, one thing we want to know is, do you like what we’re doing now? We’re talking a lot about individual action. Would you be interested more in what companies could do? So, pause now, go on the link, fill it out, and then keep playing the podcast.

Alicia Lee: Do it! 

So to get back to today’s topic: What can we do when we cannot reduce our consumption and we cannot reuse something by maybe buying secondhand. We need to buy something new but in this case you want to try to buy something better and more environmentally friendly. So how can we be more sustainable in our shopping?

Elisabeth Ignasiak: And sustainable shopping, as we’ve mentioned in previous episodes before it can be really, really difficult. And so one of the things that I used to do is whenever I found a sustainable brand that I liked, I would bookmark it, and then always buy from them. Because it’s just too hot so hard to find them in the first place. So once you have it, like, make sure you save it.

Alicia Lee: Yeah. Yeah, I can definitely relate to spending hours just to research. What’s this brand about? How are they sustainable? Is this product more sustainable? So once you can find that Goldmine you definitely want to go back.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah, exactly. Then something else to just look out for you know when you are searching brands is labels. Obviously, that makes the research a little bit more easy. So if you can find, you know, organic labels, or fair trade, or that they’re carbon neutral – it doesn’t mean that they’re perfect, but at least it shows you that they’re putting some effort into what they’re doing. 

Alicia Lee: Right. So I think another thing to keep an eye out for is whether they are using recycled materials, or maybe repurposing parts from other devices that are no longer functioning.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah. And finally, if something doesn’t have that sustainability stamp, so it doesn’t have a label, or it’s not recycled, something you should look out for is durability. So how long will that item actually last you? So obviously, the longer it lasts, the better.

Alicia Lee: Yeah, I think that’s definitely applicable for electronics. I think a lot of electronics don’t have these labels, but you can definitely try to keep an eye out for: Is this is a high-quality product that will last for several years? Can I still keep using it maybe 10 years down the road? I think that overall that can help cut your carbon footprint.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Exactly. Yeah, and over the years in doing this research and finding sustainable brands, I’ve discovered more and more of these Amazon alternatives. So, one-stop shops, and that’s for me… that really made my life so much easier. Because rather than finding you know that brand for every… for your shoes, for your whatever, for your t-shirts, for furniture, whatever, you know, it’s just, you have that one shop where you can find everything. And for me, that just made my life so much easier.

Alicia Lee: Yeah, I think it’s starting to become more popular in I think, Asia, US. But I have noticed that sort of items are more easy to find than others. I think, personal hygiene, personal cosmetics, you know, fashion, bathroom items, those are very easy to find, but things like electronics and furniture, for me it’s been very difficult to find on those kind of shops.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah, I agree. But still, I think, you know, if you’re looking for something sustainable, I think it’s always a good idea to go to one of those one-stop shops, and just see if they have it. You might be surprised. They might actually have what you’re looking for, in a sustainable version.

Alicia Lee: Right. So that’s why I think it’s very interesting for us to talk to Marcus, today, from Beeanco. He is running a one-stop sustainable shop, where has not only services but also products. So without further ado let’s jump straight into our interview.

Interview with Marcus Rosenberger: 5:02

Elisabeth Ignasiak: We’re talking to Marcus Rosenberger, today, the co-founder of Beeanco. That’s a sustainable online marketplace. Welcome, Marcus.

Marcus Rosenberger: Hello. Nice to be here today. 

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Marcus Rosenberger: Like you introduced me, I’m co-founder of Beeanco. Originally, I studied economics in Vienna, Austria. We during my studies, sustainability, came to my mind, in a real big way. And yeah, with some of my colleagues, we thought of a business modelling, we founded the online marketplace, Beeanco and now I’m here. 

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Very cool.

Alicia Lee: Could you share a bit more about Beeanco? Is there something special about it compared to other online shops?

Marcus Rosenberger: Our idea with Beeanco is simple, that first of all, everyone who’s looking for sustainable goods, and also services, is right now, or had before we went online, lots of work to do with research. Yeah. Because it was so hard to find the right products and services and so that’s where we say: Okay, we have our marketplace, our platform, where only sustainable goods and services are able to find. The other thing is that we are combining the consumption of products with the consumption of services like changing your energy supplier, for example, and try to put both into the spectrum, to have like more of a platform than a simple marketplace for products.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Okay, that sounds really interesting. I mean, I think everyone who has tried to shop sustainably can relate to the pain of researching that. So having a shop where you go to and you know okay, everything is sustainable, it’s definitely gonna be really helpful. Yeah, really cool.

Alicia Lee: Are there certain criteria that you use to determine which products or services are sustainable?

Marcus Rosenberger: We had at the beginning, this long discussion how to make it also transparent what kind of products and services we have online. And so we came up with the idea… something in between classic labels and something like the SDGs. And so we came up with our so-called sustainability criteria, which are very different from originality, to long-lasting products, to efficient production. These are nine criterias and we try to show the customer in the most easiest way, why a product is sustainable, yeah. Without a very long written text with all the different ingredients and stuff like that. But I think for the customer, it’s very important to get the most important information as easy as possible. And that’s what we try to do with our sustainability criteria. Every product has to fulfil at least two of these. Yeah.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: I was just gonna ask about that: How many criteria do need to be fulfilled?

Marcus Rosenberger: Yes, at least two, yeah. The more the better, obviously. You also see how many every product fulfils. But as we try to have real impact and also have supply for the mass market, we could not set the goal to, like, eight out of nine, because then you have just products for like 5% of all people on Earth. So obviously you need to make small steps, yeah. I’m open to, in the future, want more products with a few more, maybe we’ll raise the standards on that. But for now, two needs to be fulfilled, plus, the vendor has to write down, why the company are fulfilling the criteria. So in their own words. You really have to write down why and how are you doing that. 

Elisabeth Ignasiak: So, what I’m hearing is: You have these nine criteria. And basically, the brands that try to sell something on your shop has to justify why they fulfil certain criteria, and it needs to be at least two of them. Do you also verify? Like, if a brand claims: Okay, we are carbon neutral. How do you know whether that’s actually true?

Marcus Rosenberger: First of all, there needs to be at least some level of trust, yeah. 

Next step is that we have, like, our sustainability quality management where we say: Okay, we check every vendor, on the one hand, if their values, the… in general their brand is a fit to us, and their products. Because they could be as a brand,… can sell like 1000 products: Half of them are sustainable, the other half not. So we also need to check it on a product base. Obviously, we cannot go to the facility of every vendor, but what we try to do is, if it makes sense, what they’re writing down. If they’re the only one on Earth who can solve a problem completely sustainable like everyone else cannot do, then might be strange or very interesting, but we need to ask that. 

The third part is that it’s legally also binding because it’s like a product description. Because you see it directly on the product page. So you also need to write down the truth, and on top, what was very important for us, is that you as a customer, do not decide only on the product picture, and on the price of the product, but we also want to bring in this third level of sustainability into that. And so make it as clear as possible from the very first moment, what kind of criteria is your product you’re looking for fulfilling.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: That’s really interesting about the legal aspect you said. That’s something I hadn’t thought about before, that basically the brand by having that product description and saying: Okay, these are our sustainability criteria publicly for everyone. If that’s not true, then they’re basically committing fraud, not just with you but publicly with the… with the consumer. 

Alicia Lee: In addition to this verification process, are there some other big challenges that you encounter when you run a sustainable shop?

Marcus Rosenberger: Right now, we don’t have the problem that we’re facing too much greenwashing companies. Because when we are approaching them with our sales team, we do kind of background checks, obviously, to try to filter out greenwashers.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: That’s good to know.

Marcus Rosenberger: But if they’re coming to us. Yeah. If they’re approaching us and they want to list something, they are very conservative on that. They’re more: Hey, am I sustainable enough to even list? Also sometimes it’s the case that we need to deny a listing because we don’t get enough information, but most of the time people are really cautious about, are they even sustainable enough to list on our marketplace, which is a good thing for us and our quality management, too.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah. Yeah.

Marcus Rosenberger: In the beginning, we also thought of labels – there are hundreds of green and eco-labels – but then found out: First of all, you can buy labels and not be too sustainable at all, on one hand. At the other hand for small SMEs that are very sustainable like family-sized businesses, for example, they cannot afford in some cases, these labels. And so the most sustainable companies would drop out then, and so we had to make the decision, not going for labels, I mean, and certificates. You can do and add certificates and labels to your products on our page, and it will be shown to the customer. But we went for our sustainability criterias 

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Maybe just for our listeners: SME means?

Marcus Rosenberger: Small and medium sized enterprises, so like, the size of let’s say five employees to ten.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah. Thanks. 

That’s actually quite nice that you’re trying to also support these small shops, for whom getting these certifications is just too expensive, and that you’re building this trustful relationship with the brands that you have on your shop.

Marcus Rosenberger: Yeah, I mean, I think that is very important because especially these smaller size businesses, they have really great products and often don’t get their footstep into the big supermarket chains, yeah.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah, of course.

Marcus Rosenberger: And also, even on well-known marketplaces, you have to pay something, if you want people to see you and recognize you and if you don’t have any budget, you more or less will never be shown, even though someone is exactly looking for your like product. And, I think, especially right now also in these difficult times, it’s also a very good thing to support there.

Alicia Lee: Could you give a few examples of the types of products and services that you sell on your platform?

Marcus Rosenberger: So start maybe with the services. Like I mentioned before, we have for example energy providers, insurance companies, also companies where you can invest the money with sustainable basis. We also go for,… for even more services, obviously. We just started and launched this part of our platform, in February. 

And on product, here we have lots of fashion, for example. Also, food is also very often seen, as well as soaps and hygienic stuff. Our goal is to be like this everything store, yeah. There is at least one well known company in the world that sells everything, but our approach is to sell everything but sustainable, or the most sustainable alternatives. Because if you think of, for example, a TV or a computer: No one will tell you a computer will be 100% sustainable, yeah, but we also know that people will not say: Okay, I will never use a computer from now on. So we need to find the most sustainable way to approach that, for example, with refurbished products. We will also get some on our marketplace in the next weeks. And we really try to have this aspect from A to Z to have really, all kinds of products that you as a customer can really look for whatever you want, and everything you find this is a sustainable alternative to other websites.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: So you have these services. So for example, finding green electricity supplier, finding more sustainable insurances and banks, I’m assuming. And then on the product side, we have fashion, we have beauty products and some groceries. And you said for… in future you want to include other categories like electronics, where it might not be 100% sustainable, but maybe refurbished things that are definitely more sustainable than other alternatives on the market. Do I have that right?

Marcus Rosenberger: Maybe to add to these electronics we not just want to list them but they will definitely list it in the next weeks. 

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Okay.

Marcus Rosenberger: But at the other hand, there’s still people who say: Hey, if I buy something, I want to buy it new. And then you would need to think of the products with the longest warranties, because if the product is very long-lasting, then the producer is also giving you a long-lasting warranty. 

For example, energy-saving products and compared to the others, yeah. If it’s a very energy-saving, let’s say TV, then it is obviously not all in all, sustainable, but from the range of TVs, it’s on the top 5% of the most sustainable ones. That’s the approach for all categories. 

Because we know people don’t change their habits, from like Monday to Tuesday, but it’s a slow-growing process and we need to really give transparent information to inform people. That is a key essence. Everyone needs to know the background facts to do the right decision. On the other hand, people don’t like an extreme change from one day to the other. That’s why I think, obviously, it must be very fast, that we get more sustainable, but it should not be like forbidden things, you’re not allowed to do this or that because then people turn around and say hey, if I want to be sustainable, I can’t do anything because everything is forbidden. And that’s also the other side of the…

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah. It’s about making steps in the right direction, right? I mean, we all know how difficult it is. I think no one can claim to be 100% sustainable, all we can try is to do one small step at a time, right?

Marcus Rosenberger: Like you said, you can be sustainable, but not as sustainable as maybe others are, or 100% sustainable, but you’re still trying to be. We also need to tell people: Okay, that’s… you’re in a good way. Keep on with that way. And you can still have some… some bad habits, but it shouldn’t be too much.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah, and I think it’s also about making it easier, right? You’re going through a lot of trouble trying to find these products, and by you doing that, you’re making it a lot easier for people who just go on your platform to then make a more conscious choice. 

Marcus Rosenberger: Yeah, I mean, obviously it’s hard to find products and it’s also hard to get the information if they are really sustainable. But for us, I mean, that’s the core of our business that we more or less do the research for the customer. Obviously, if you get home at 6 in the evening, and you say: Hey, I want to buy a t-shirt for example, you don’t want to do research for two hours. So it’s only logical that people will end up on their usual online shop and buy whatever they find, maybe the cheapest thing. That’s a logic thing.

Alicia Lee: Is there a particular item that you found that was most difficult to source, or is the item that you’re very proud that you’re able to source and have in your shop.

Marcus Rosenberger: Most difficult is the things with electronics. That’s why we don’t have it yet. If you’re a seller of electronics, 99% would not consider anything with sustainability because they say: I don’t have too much to do with sustainability. If they’re not selling refurbished devices for example. So I would say that’s a big step forward for us to also show to the broad mass that we really consider having more or less everything on our marketplace because electronics is a huge thing, we buy online.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah, for sure.

Marcus Rosenberger: Other stuff is like, we’re having a football, sustainable one, which is, for me… was really interesting to see because you don’t think of a football that is sustainable.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah. That’s… That’s actually a nice one. I like it.

Marcus Rosenberger: Yeah because you only go and say, I need a football and don’t think of the aspects of sustainability. But then you have it, for example here with Fairtrade certificates. So it really shows you actually in every area, there are alternatives, but they’re not seeing enough. That’s exactly what we are also trying to do.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: So to everyone listening, who plays football, you know where to go now.

Alicia Lee: Yeah, have you found that certain items or services are more popular than others, so far?

Marcus Rosenberger: Yeah, I mean what… what we recognize is that people still think of sustainability, especially for, let’s say, groceries. Because we need something, you want to make sure: What is it? What’s in it? Where is it from? For example, cosmetics, because you still also have this contact with your skin and you say: Okay, I’m taking more care. As well as with stuff for children. While, for example in fashion, some people are really into it already but others don’t really care too much about it, because they say: Okay, one more t-shirt from here will not change the world. So I would also say groceries, cosmetics are by far like the best categories on our page, for now, to summarize that.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: And soon to be the sports category, where you will be selling millions of footballs.

Marcus Rosenberger: Exactly, yeah. Hopefully, yeah. But yeah, the thing is with Corona, as it is forbidden to do like team sports, in most of the countries, or…

Elisabeth Ignasiak: That’s true. And sad.

Marcus Rosenberger: It’s a bit of a show stopper for footballs, for example. 

Elisabeth Ignasiak: In which countries is your shop available?

Marcus Rosenberger: Right now, we are available in the German-speaking regions, especially in Austria and in Germany and then we have some vendors that also sell to Switzerland for example, but not too many. And yeah, in the future we also want to… to go further, also outside of the German-speaking regions.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Let us know when that happens.

Marcus Rosenberger: Definitely.

Alicia Lee: Great. And where can people find you?

Marcus Rosenberger: Obviously, on the internet, on the one hand, on beeanco.com, plus we are present also on social media, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn. We do not have an offline shop. I mean, for now, it’s not something we plan…

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Probably better in Corona times anyways, right?.

Marcus Rosenberger: Right now, definitely better, yeah. Maybe in the future. You never know.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Cool. We will put all those links in the show notes so people can find you. 

Thank you very much, Marcus. It was a pleasure to have you on.

Marcus Rosenberger: We’ll appreciate it. Was also a pleasure talking to you. As soon as we will be expanding, yeah, I hope I will get another invitation to this podcast.

Alicia Lee: Yeah. Thank you so much. 

Marcus Rosenberger: Thank you.

Discussion: 20:15

Alicia Lee: One thing I thought that was quite interesting, Marcus mentioned, is how they don’t prioritize the standard labels because actually, it’s too expensive, or too difficult for these small shops to obtain. So I think moving forward it will be quite interesting to see: How can we standardize criteria for sustainability? As opposed to, also balancing with: How can we make sure these small sustainable players can meet these criteria and sustain themselves?

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah. And actually talking about criteria, I think something that is really important to understand, and Marcus also mentioned it, you know the perfect product – it doesn’t exist. So it’s better to buy something that is a more sustainable product, but you will have a very hard time to find the perfect product.

Alicia Lee: Yeah. Yeah. I think it kind of ties back to what Erin said is: You’ve got to try to support people who are taking… maybe they’re not perfect now, but they’re taking small steps in the right direction and gradually they will get to a place where they can improve a lot.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah, yeah. For me, really the key of these one-stop shops is that it makes buying sustainable products just so much easier because you don’t have to do all the research. If you trust that shop, they do it for you. So for you, it’s just so much more simple.

Alicia Lee: Yeah. I think this is something very easy people can do, instead of going to Amazon just going to these more sustainable shops and just… even just by doing that we can all take small steps for more positive change. 

Elisabeth Ignasiak: Yeah, exactly. I think, if your first reflex is: go to the sustainable shop, rather than Amazon, you’re already making a difference. 

And with those words maybe let’s end this episode here. Thanks again, Alicia, for being our guest moderator this month.

Alicia Lee: Thanks so much for having me here. I really enjoyed learning a lot, not just about sustainability, but also about the whole podcast process in general. So, thanks for having me, and maybe I can see you again in the future.

Elisabeth Ignasiak: For sure. Yeah, and for our listeners, there will be one last episode next week, wrapping up, season one, where also Chinmai will be back. Thank you for listening. And see you next week. Bye-bye. 

Alicia Lee: Bye.