Calling All Heart-Led Businesses! Is Your Product Worthy Of A Clean + Conscious Award?

If you’ve got an ethical product that the world needs to know about, the 2024 Clean + Conscious Awards might just be the marketing boost your brand needs. With over 100 categories to choose from – including everything from skincare and fashion through to household products and baby goods – every entry is rigorously tested by a panel of independent experts, and finalists are featured in the industry-leading Clean + Conscious directory.   

Here, we chat to awards founder Emily Fletcher to find out what’s in it for your brand – and how to get the leg up in this year’s competition (hint: send your sample now!).

To start, can you tell us a little about yourself… 

I’m a mother of two young children and a practising optometrist of 16 years. I was raised and continue to live in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, where I’m lucky to be surrounded by nature. I’ve always been interested in science and how it relates to our health and the world around us. My tertiary education involved years of advanced science and I have also completed further pharmacology studies. 

How did the Clean + Conscious Awards come about? 

After having my first baby in 2015, I started a blog documenting my journey researching the ingredients used in baby products and other everyday items. The blog led to the Clean + Conscious Awards, which I founded five years ago. Today, I run them with support from a team of highly qualified and passionate women, including Emma Freeman, who manages our brand strategy and content; Dominique Scott, our awards coordinator; and Alex Sainty, our communications assistant. 

They’re also mothers of young children and we all share the values of conscious living, helping others, caring for our planet and all things low-tox. Our combined skills, expertise and passion have made the Clean + Conscious Awards the success they are today.

I started the awards with the aim of empowering consumers to make informed decisions when choosing clean and conscious products. I also wanted to support brands that are true role models. 

Many of the brands that I recommended through my blog were lesser-known, with small marketing budgets but huge hearts. Unless those small businesses are recognised for the value they provide – in caring for their customers, the environment and supporting local and global communities – it’s difficult for them to find a voice and stay afloat. 

Unlike many other awards, I wanted to create something that would be scientifically researched, independent, created from the heart and not influenced by the size of an entrant’s marketing budget.

Entries are now open for the 2024 awards. What’s one thing you’d like a brand or business to know about your judging criteria before they apply?

We value products that are healthy, sustainable, ethical and responsible. But I want businesses to know that with every single product entered, there are always opportunities for improvement and we’re here to support you on that journey. Most importantly, we want to see products that are created from the heart.

We love celebrating all the wonderful things about you and we do understand that a small startup can’t possibly operate in the same way that a larger, more established brand can. 

We advise businesses to fill out the submission forms thoroughly. We encourage you to share as much information as possible. Some brands find answering the questions really helpful for their business or marketing strategy. It’s also important to send samples to us as swiftly as possible, otherwise it’s difficult for us to trial your product thoroughly. 

In the past, you’ve said that one of your goals for the awards is to ensure the judging process is “transparent, honest and unbiased”. Can you tell us what that will look like this year?  

No business that enters the awards can advertise on our site, which makes us unique and enables brands to participate on a level playing field – whether they are a tiny startup or a larger company.

If a product reaches the finalist stage, it is hands-on reviewed by industry experts and influencers, and the business receives valuable reviews and private feedback. All finalist products receive their own page in the Clean + Conscious Awards directory – it’s an incredible resource that helps consumers make quick, easydecisions when buying clean and conscious products.

What makes a brand or business stand out to you? 

Firstly, the product must be of high quality and fulfil its purpose. This is first and foremost. What makes a brand really stand out, though, is the intention behind the product. We see this in the care that’s taken to create it, the sourcing of ingredients or materials, the prioritisation of the planet and the brand’s awareness of being part of a greater community.

As mentioned earlier, no business is doing all four of these things perfectly, but the businesses that truly do stand out are those that do their best with what is available to them.

What kind of trends do you predict for 2024?

Despite consumers feeling the pinch of interest rate rises, they are still committed to conscious purchasing and are very loyal to brands that are congruent with their own values. I think there will be a trend towards refillable, concentrated, bulk buy and bottle exchange products where loyalty to a brand reduces the cost, waste and shipping for the consumer. 

Products in our Food + Nutrition categories are also very popular. On the back of the pandemic, we’ve seen that personal health is being prioritised more than ever – this includes superfoods, protein powders, collagen supplements, women’s health products and kids’ nutrition.

Tell us about a favourite memory or moment from previous awards. 

Receiving glowing testimonials from brands at the end of the first year. The awards are an enormous passion project, driven by a desire to make a difference. They’ve been created so that at every turn we add value and support the brands that enter – it is a lot of hard work and extra admin! 

To hear that it was truly playing out as I’d hoped – that brands were thrilled with the feedback, exposure and credibility that came with their entries – made my heart sing. A lot of those brands still enter today and the awards have grown from 20 categories to nearly 100.

Tell us about some of the things brands have gone on to do after winning a Clean + Conscious Award? 

We’ve seen businesses grow from little home-kitchen startups to big names in the conscious product space. A Clean + Conscious Award gives a small brand credibility and is often the ticket to being stocked by larger retailers.

Credibility is a word we often hear from brands when talking about their win. With greenwashing rife and consumers reluctant to spend unless they know a brand is legitimately doing the right thing, the stamp of approval from our awards indicates that a product is non-toxic, ethical, sustainable and socially responsible, and that is very powerful. 

With a community behind them, brands have the confidence and inspiration to continue being the trailblazers they are in the eco space. The recognition and feedback from industry experts gives them a laser focus on their goals. And the reviews provide product testimonials for use in marketing and advertising.

Many brands also use the awards to launch a new product or enter the Australian market. Others have found that the awards boost their sales in New Zealand, or vice versa, so they really do open up a new market for them.