The term ethical clothing is hard to define. The official definition of ethics is “pertaining to or dealing with morals or the principles of morality; pertaining to right and wrong in conduct” or “being in accordance with the rules or standards for right conduct or practice, especially the standards of a profession”.
However, there are no guidelines and very little information when it comes to the eco-fashion industry. Essentially, companies will create their own definition based on their values, beliefs, accessible material, and financial resources. There is no governing body so a company cannot be “in accordance with the rules” when there isn’t any to begin with.
The simplest way to distinguish between an ethical brand versus another one is simply transparency and traceability. Can the brand breakdown their entire supply chain, from the source of the fabric to the finished product? Unfortunately, most cannot delve into that much detail. But that shouldn’t be a deterrent for consumers.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRANSPARENCY AND TRACEABILITY
The reason why these two items are most important is because it forces the company to become accountable. The company has complete knowledge of their processes so they are unable to “pass the buck” if something goes wrong. For instance, in the Rana Plaza incident, companies like Joe Fresh had no idea their clothing was being produced in these factories. By not being aware of their supply chain, these companies had no traceability or transparency.
Companies are recognizing the increasing trend of conscious consumerism and have begun making claims that align with eco-fashion, such as being against child labour or poor working conditions, for example. But the majority of these claims turn out to be “greenwashing”; an attempt to appear good to convince consumers they are supporting a “good” brand.
Because of this deception, it is important for consumers to become educated. When you are shopping, you are supporting these brands to continue their practices. You are basically saying it is ok for them to employ children, just as long as you get a $5 t-shirt.
To think that a brand will ever be 100% ethical is unrealistic. It’s like aspiring to be perfect – it’s just not going to happen. But you can choose the lesser of two evils. You can either use your money to support brands that are actively striving to be a leader in the ethical fashion realm or you can support a brand that thinks it is irrelevant.
Supporting brands who are working hard to make change will eventually pay off. If enough consumers support these brands, this will force other brands to follow suit if they want to stay in business. By doing so, consumers change the treatment of workers and the environment. It’s a slow process, but it’s possible. Over time, we as consumers can make small positive changes to the world.
Stay tuned for next week’s post where I go into further detail on how to tell if a brand is legitimately ethical or not.
What are some important factors to you when it comes to ethical clothing? Comment below or email me!!