We've all been there - attending an event and walking away with a bag full of branded swag, only for most of it to end up in the trash. Traditional corporate gifts and merchandise, often made of non-eco-friendly materials, contribute significantly to unnecessary waste and pollution. In fact, Forbes finds that just 21% of branded items are kept for any length of time. This wasteful approach not only harms the environment but also reflects poorly on the brand distributing such merchandise.
While not buying merchandise at all is the best for the planet, we recognize the business value of merch done right.
Corporate merchandise and gifting, traditionally is a way to build relationships and show appreciation. As companies and their employees, customers, and partners become more eco-conscious, a shift toward sustainable merchandise is gaining momentum.
Opting for eco-friendly and quality products not only enhances your company's image but also fosters stronger relationships with the person receiving the product, as it shows that you actually care. For them and the planet.
While navigating through the many options of merchandise, finding products that truly embody quality, sustainability and a great design can be challenging. Therefore Sugarcoat is born to help you design and create sustainability products that people truly want to use. Our selection of quality products can be found here here.
Below you’ll find 10 great eco-friendly merchandise ideas and a checklist to consider when selecting your sustainable merchandise.
We have curated a list of 10 great eco-friendly merchandise ideas popular among employees and clients in 2023:
Tote bags are a classic - an easy and cost-efficient way to bring your brand to life in the real world. Consider choosing tote bags crafted from sustainable materials like organic or recycled materials. As you select your products, you could look for certificates like GOTS and Oeko-Tex 100 to ensure the products adhere to rigorous ethical and environmental benchmarks.
Most of our tote bags are both GOTS-certified and Oeko-Tex100. A popular choice by our customers is our heavy tote bag which is made from 80% recycled cotton and 20% recycled polyester.
Source: Salt and Amble
Branded company-logo t-shirts reign as the most prevalent choice for team merchandise. The reasons for that are simple: They're unisex, they’re worn often, and provide an accessible and cost-effective way to build your brand internally and externally. In the quest for the perfect sustainable team t-shirt, there are a few things to consider. One thing is the eco-friendliness of the materials, going for certified organic or recycled materials. Another thing is the thoughtfulness of the prints, avoiding excessive branding. The last thing is the heaviness of the cotton, ensuring high durability wash after wash.
Source: Allergic Club and Slow Sunday Coffee Club
While many conventional notebooks have made efforts by switching from traditional to FSC® paper, there exists a significant opportunity to raise the bar on sustainability and ignite greater excitement.
Among the impressive alternatives are our notebook crafted from paper waste collected at printshops in Belgium, a stone paper notebook manufactured by Australian B-corp Karst, and custom notebooks made by German Leuchtturm1917 from 70% recycled materials.
Source: Karst and Leuchtturm1917
Tumblers are an excellent addition to your list of sustainable branded merchandise. When considering the eco-friendliness of the options, choose stainless steel for durability or recycled plastic for sustainability.
A favorite brand among our team is the Japanese brand Kinto. Two bestsellers from this brand are Kinto Travel Tumbler or Kinto To Go Tumbler. Both made of lasting materials and in a modern aesthetic design.
Source: WatchHouse and Blue Bottle Coffee
Sportswear is a favored option for personalized business merchandise, and this is for good reasons. It emphasizes the importance of a healthy lifestyle, often finds itself in social work and non-work related contexts, and sees frequent usage. While it did take some time for recycled polyester to meet the standards for functional performance, that is no longer an issue. Yet, a shift to recycled materials for sportswear implies that you must navigate carefully to ensure the procurement of highly functional and sustainable pieces.
Source: Lunar and NrbRunning
Custom organic cotton caps, often designed with simple embroidery on the front panel, are a timeless choice with unisex appeal across a broad range of age groups. When seeking an eco-friendly alternative, opting for 100% organic cotton is a reliable guideline, ensuring both comfort and sustainability. When considering cotton caps, pay attention to their weight – opting for a slightly heavier fabric ensures durability.
You can explore our range of regular and low-profile 100% organic cotton caps here.
Crewnecks and hoodies serve as central pieces in a team's merchandise kit, often worn in the office, known for high durability and with great appeal to both men and women. To find the perfect team sweatshirt, pay great attention to the weight of the cotton. We typically suggest either 280g (regular weight) or 350g (heavy weight) cotton for a quality choice. For those who prioritize sustainability, look out for certifications such as GOTS, the highest sustainability standard for organic cotton, and Oeko-tex100 to ensure that the garment is free from harmful substances.
Our selection includes a variety of eco-friendly crewnecks and hoodies. Among our top picks are the heavy crewneck crafted from 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton and the recycled hoodie. Both are excellent choices for eco-conscious consumers.
Source: Spotify and Rolex
Pens represent a great and affordable option for expressing your brand. Pens are frequently gifted at events, during client meetings, or to employees at the office. Regrettably, many of these pens are poorly made and end up unused. Quality is undoubtedly important in this context, but what truly forges an emotional connection is gifting pens with a story that goes beyond the pens.
Here are a few top picks with a unique story: Our True Biotic Pen, a high-quality biobased pen manufactured in Switzerland by Prodir, or their Mini Pen, which generates a 40% lower carbon footprint compared to traditional pens. Another great choice is the Danish brand Sprout, which is known for developing the world's first plantable pencils.
If there's one item that has consistently gained popularity among companies for employee appreciation, it's company-branded vests and jackets. For many, the Patagonia vest with company branding is a common sight, but there are other sustainable and more budget-friendly alternatives available.
Sustainable branded water bottles are a thoughtful choice for corporate merchandise. Crafted from materials such as stainless steel or recycled plastic, these bottles help reduce single-use plastic waste while also serving as a highly functional product and a powerful way to express your brand in- and out of the office.
We have a solid range of quality bottles. Among our team favorites are the Nalgene recycled water bottle made from 50% recycled materials; Swiss-made Sigg recycled traveler made from 100% recycled lightweight aluminum; and the self-cleaning Purevis bottle from American LARQ.
Source: Kinto and Glossier
At Sugarcoat we take pride in selecting quality, sustainable products, helping you create products that your employees, customers and partners want to use. Check out all our products here or view a catalog of 100+ inspirations for merchandise.