How can your weekly shopping help save the world?

The world’s nations met in October in Glasgow to discuss the climate challenges facing the planet at the UN Climate Change conference, more popularly known as ‘COP26’. 

How can your weekly shopping help save the world?
Photo: Getty Images

Already, nations around the world are investigating ways to power their transportation and manufacturing infrastructure with electricity sourced from wind, solar and wave power. Consumers are also increasingly feeling their power in campaigns that influence businesses to change their practices to be more sustainable in the supply and delivery of goods. 

Together with online learning provider GetSmarter and the University of Cambridge’sInstitute for Sustainability Leadership, who offer the Supply Chain Management and Business and Climate Change: Towards Net Zero Emissions online short courses, we explore five ways internationals in Europe can exert influence in guiding businesses to act more ethically and sustainably.

Shop local

Especially popular across Germany, Austria and Switzerland are campaigns that stress the need to source groceries locally. Consumer pressure has forced many supermarkets to place local produce front and centre, in prominent locations. This has been assisted by a surge of support for markets and local general stores, further forcing supermarkets to ensure that they are stocking produce from the surrounding area. While many of these campaigns have enjoyed state and federal support, they are by no means unpopular and enjoy widespread support. 

Further guaranteeing that local produce is prioritised are laws that ensure specific foods are not labelled in such a way to mislead regarding their origin. For example, Allgäu cheese and Schwarzwald ham cannot be labelled as such if they are not produced within these geographical regions.

Shopping in the local produce sections of supermarkets, and carefully checking packaging to ensure that regional specialities are, in fact, sourced locally, sends a clear message to retailers that local produce should comprise the majority of their stock. As a knock on effect, supply chains are shortened and emissions reduced. 

Learn how to become part of the teams developing, revolutionizing and streamlining the supply chains of the future with the Supply Chain Management online short course from GetSmarter and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Management

Look for ‘greenwashing’

Sustainability is a buzzword these days, and as such, features prominently in advertising campaigns. However, the ‘bio’ or ‘green’ laundry detergent that you buy may not actually be as sustainable as the name would suggest. ‘Greenwashing’, by which firms overstate or exaggerate the sustainability credentials of their product, has become a significant issue in recent years. 

France was the first country in the world to introduce criminal charges for ‘greenwashing’ by companies, earlier this year. Those found to have misled consumers can be fined up to 80% of the cost of the advertising campaign in question. 

With significant losses for those who break these laws, ‘ESG’ (environmental, social and governmental) ratings are a major concern. Products are increasingly featuring the ESG rating given to them by one of many watchdog groups. 

At the consumer level, we can avoid ‘greenwashing’ by looking beyond the name, or packaging of a product, and look for the ESG rating assigned to it. If the watchdog assigning it is a member of IOSCO, an umbrella organisation providing oversight over these groups, even better. 

Sourcing goods that truly practice sustainability, rather than adopting it as a marketing device, reduce emissions and benefit the environment. 

Photo: Getty Images

Invest ethically

‘Activist investors’ have become a phenomenon in recent years, which means  consumers are increasingly buying shares in local manufacturers, or working with hedge funds in an effort to influence the sustainability of a business and their supply chains. 

One region that has increasingly seen this occurring is Italy. Over the last five years, activist hedge funds there have prevented a number of mergers and acquisitions, ensuring that supply chains are kept local, and that markets are not flooded with products from elsewhere. Around a third of firms in Italy are family-owned, and efforts to protect them from acquisition are a point of pride for many. 

Consumers in a position to invest can ensure the sustainability of supply chains by either investing themselves in local food and good manufacturers, or by working with funds that prioritise ethical and sustainable investing as part of their mission.

Discover how to guide your business towards zero emissions with the Business and Climate Change: Towards Net Zero Emissions 8 week course from GetSmarter and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Avoid fast fashion

‘Fast fashion’ – cheap, mass-produced clothing imported from developing countries – imposes a huge burden on the environment. Its supply chains generate a huge amount of carbon emissions, and production in countries often without environmental protections causes a number of different types of pollution. 

Spain, as the home of Zara, one of the world’s biggest producers of ‘fast fashion’, has become a battleground against the practice. Activist groups such as Greenpeace have targeted the retailer in their campaigns, to a great deal of publicity. As a consequence, the Spanish public is increasingly aware of the costs of cheap clothing. 

Retailers across Europe, such as C&A and H&M have sought to avoid the ‘fast fashion’ stigma by supporting campaigns that ‘upcycle’ clothes, reusing fabrics, and sourcing textiles locally. This has the effect of reducing the carbon emissions created by supply chains, and aids in the creation of the ‘circular economy’ – that is to say, the reuse of materials within a market to improve sustainability on an environmental and economic level. 

Consumers can avoid ‘fast fashion’ by carefully sourcing their clothes from labels that reject these practices, by recycling clothes via a variety of online platforms and purchasing clothes made from recyclable fabrics, such as those produced through partnership with the ‘Cradle to Cradle’ Institute. 

Use apps to cut waste

Europe generates approximately 88 trillion tonnes of food waste each year – a truly staggering amount of waste, considering the supply chains required to bring fruit, vegetables, dairy products and other foodstuffs to your local supermarket.

The Nordics have been leading the way in tackling food waste, not only on a governmental level, but on a consumer level. Apps such as Denmark’s TooGoodToGo and Sweden’s Karma, that help both businesses and individuals distribute excess food to others, enjoy a great deal of support from the population. They have proved so successful that they are expanding into the UK, US and other markets, to great acclaim. 

Using food waste apps, and second-hand clothing marketplaces are an effective way for consumers to help develop sustainable, circular economies, where supply chains are streamlined and there is a reduction in emissions – and you might also be able to grab a great bargain

Become an active participant in developing the supply chains that will supply future markets, with the Supply Chain Management online short course from GetSmarter and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Course begins February 9th

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


The steps and requirements to hire a foreign worker in Spain

If you need to hire foreign staff in Spain, there are several factors and steps to the recruiting process that you should be aware of in order for it be done legally, from the work permit to the contract.

The steps and requirements to hire a foreign worker in Spain

Employment is regulated in Spain by the convenio colectivo, a set of rules which regulate working hours, number of holiday days, salary, as well as sick pay, maternity and paternity leave, and how to terminate a contract.

Many of these rules are the same for Spaniards and non-Spaniards alike, but there are a few extra steps and requirements you need to know about in order to hire a foreign worker in Spain.

You can read more about the requirements for hiring a Spaniard in Spain in the article directly below, which includes a lot of the same information with regards to hours, holiday days, pay, and so on, as it does for foreigners.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know before hiring a worker in Spain

Different types of foreigners

Employment contracts for foreign workers in Spain are regulated by certain rules, informed mostly by immigration law, and were most recently amended through Royal Decree 629/2022 in July 2022.

First things first, when hiring a foreign worker in Spain you must consider that there are different types of foreigners in the eyes of the law.

If your potential employee is a foreigner who is an EU citizen, a citizen from the European Economic Area or Switzerland, then they can legally access the Spanish labour market with the same rights as Spanish nationals — simple.

So, what does this mean in practice? Basically, if you want to hire a non-EU worker, you’ll need to get a work permit for your future employee.

There are essentially three main situations you could find yourself when it comes to hiring a non-EU worker in Spain. You could want to hire:

  • Non-EU/EEA/Swiss workers not in Spain.
  • Non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who are in Spain with another permit – work, residency or otherwise.
  • Non-EU/EEA/Swiss workers who are already in Spain, but in an irregular immigration situation. 

READ ALSO: What are the types of work contracts in Spain and which one is the best?

Types of work permits for foreigners

Each of these situations is subject to a different legal procedure in order for your employee to be able to work and live legally in Spain.

In all cases, in order to obtain work and residence authorisation, it is necessary to have an employment contract that complies with certain requirements regarding duration and salary, among other things (more on that below).

In some cases it is the employer who must initiate the work permit application, while in others it is the employee who must take the initiative.

These are essentially two types of permit:

Autorización de residencia y trabajo por cuenta ajena (residence and work authorisation as an employee) This is by far the most common route, and is used to manage hiring at origin, allowing the employee to reside for a specific period of time in Spain for the purpose of their employment. This authorisation is initiated by the employer.

Autorizaciones por circunstancias excepcionales de arraigo (authorisations due to exceptional circumstances) This is a far less common way of hiring a foreign worker, and are temporary residency and work rights granted to people at the request of the interested party, that is, the employee, in exceptional circumstances. You can read more about this HI 37 permit here but generally speaking these are for carers, parents, and the spouses of Spanish nationals.

What are the requirements for hiring a foreign worker?

As for what an employer needs to do in order to hire a foreigner, there are certain general requirements that must be met, such as that the company is up to date with its obligations to the taxman and social security payments.

Labour market situation – in the case of the standard work permit, Spain’s domestic employment situation must be such that the hiring of non-residents in Spain is deemed necessary. That is to say, the employer must accompany the non-EU work permit application with a certificate from Spain’s Public Employment Service showing that there are no suitable and available workers in the domestic labour market, and that the employer can therefore only recruit from abroad.

This used to be fairly hard as  apart from the no EU candidate requirement, the other alternative was that the potential non-EU recruits’ jobs had to be Spain’s shortage occupation list, made up almost entirely by jobs in the maritime and shipping industry.

But the Spanish government has realised that it has shortages in far more industries, from waiters to construction workers, and has no reportedly made it easier to recruit all types of non-EU workers.

READ ALSO: How it’s now easier for foreigners to work in Spain

Equally, high-ranking and highly qualified employees can more easily be employed thanks to the EU Blue Card. These are workers who perform only senior management activities on behalf of the company that hires them, and nobody else. The same applies to highly qualified workers who have essential knowledge or specialisms. 

The situation for foreigners in regulated professions (dentists, doctors, lawyers, engineers etc) is far more complicated, as they need to have their non-EU qualifications recognised before being able to legally work in Spain, a bureaucratic fiasco that has more than 40,000 high-skilled foreign workers waiting for up to seven years.

READ MORE: Homologación – How Spain is ruining the careers of thousands of qualified foreigners

Salary – for standard work permits, the salary must be at least equal to the minimum wage (SMI). Note that Spain’s SMI is due to be increase in January 2024.

Contract – you must offer a fixed-term contract of more than 90 days and less than five years. The contract must clearly state the agreed remuneration, in number and payments per year. If the contract is part-time, the remuneration must be equal to or higher than the SMI for full time and in annual calculation.

Age – The minimum age of the worker, in case of authorisation for residence and work as an employee, is 16 years old.

The application

If all these criteria are satisfied and made clear in the prospective contract, you must file EX-03 form and the necessary documentation (including the contract signed with the employee) to the competent administration, which is usually the immigration office in the province where the services or work is to be carried out.

You can find the EX-03 form here.

The application can be submitted electronically or in person, and the deadline for a decision is three months. The duration of the permit is one year from the date it is granted, extendable for four years.

READ ALSO: Spain’s next minimum wage increase: What we know so far