The great news for the people of the world, is that the demand for ethical fashion is growing more and more popular every year meaning that ethics is receiving a whole heap of awareness. The sad news is that some brands see the demand for ethics in a supply chain and start telling people that they're ethical, all the while taking huge, misleading shortcuts or simply changing nothing at all about their unethical operations in the hopes that they will gain a few extra customers (we'd love to point out who those brands are but given their sneaky tactics, we'd be slammed with a defamation lawsuit faster than Usaine Bolt can sprint a 100...).
Some brands will say just about anything to ensure business is never bad, including leading people to believe they are ethical when they are in fact, not.
A classic statement that we hear all the time is, "we ensure that our employees receive fair wages and safe working conditions" however:
a) most factories where clothes are made are in-fact not owned by the brand staking these kinds of claims and therefore the claims don't reference to garment workers at all, and;
b) just because they're safe and their pay is 'fair' doesn't mean they're not subject to slave labour or that they aren't employing children.
So how can you identify whether or not a brand is actually taking the necessary precautions to ensure real principles of ethics are applied to all workers in their supply chain?
1. PUT ON YOUR PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR HAT, AND DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ.
True ethical brands ordinarily have a pretty significant write up on their websites about their values and the integration of ethics at in their supply chain. A brand that is proud of their morals and has nothing to hide, won't be afraid to share all the ins and outs of their operation with their audience.
Read carefully! Brands that are hiding something will often be hiding it in plain sight as part of their adherence to consumer law, etc. So read carefully!
Each website is kind of like a Tinder profile... Giving you all the wit, fun and quality they can achieve in a matter of a few sentences... Only to disappoint you with the realisation that it was copy and pasted when you meet them in real life...
2. ASK THE QUESTION.
The best possible way you can identify whether or not a brand is ethical would be to try and get in contact with them. Stalk their contact page and find their contact information, be it phone or email and throw them a line. As stated previously, brands that have nothing to hide will be all over it about how they're implementing ethics throughout their production line.
A good response will be able to tell you everything you request to know or at least be happy to respond to your requests.
A bad response might direct you to that vague wording you've already read on their website or respond with a copy and pasted account of what you would find on their website.
A really bad response, is no response at all... These guys are definitely hiding something.
3. OUTSOURCE THE INVESTIGATION.
Head to Google and have a look for an ethical fashion directory or guide to find information from the pro sleuths. One of our favourites is Good On You (website & app), EFA Brand Directory by Ethical Fashion Australia and www.ethical.org.au have a pretty hand ethical consumer guide that we find to be rather useful as well.
4. SUPER BLOGGERS.
We're literally riddled in the online community with bloggers that dedicate their lives to investigating and writing about fashion in general, it's like the new world of journalism.
Check out our favourite ethical and sustainable fashion bloggers. Our number 1 go to in these kind of situations is Eco Warrior Princess. She is pretty much the be all and end all of blogging about all things that are good for the planet and the people, so get amongst her knowledge... If you're really having a hard time figuring something out then don't be afraid to reach out to these bloggers on their current blog posts and articles and request help. As per the headline... Super bloggers will literally come to your rescue. I don't know exactly how they do it but where there is a will there is a way and they're generally all over it!
We also like: The Good Trade, Dress Well Do Good, The Social Activist, Celebrating the Creators & Better Dressed.
5. CERTIFICATIONS MEAN THEY'RE ACCREDITED BUT TO ME ETHICS IS MORE THAN AN ACCREDITATION AND THE OCCASIONAL AUDIT.
I've read a few blogs in my time and they repeat the method of identifying ethics via international accreditation bodies such as 'fair trade' 'world fair trade' & 'fair trade certified'. As much as we respect brands that have earned the accreditation of these entities my ethics values extend beyond an accreditation to minimum 'fair conditions', 'fair pay' and 'age restriction'.
We're really proud to work with brands that are accredited and we're really proud to work with brands that haven't had themselves accredited because we're not so much concerned about the accreditation as we are concerned about the intentions of the brands that live here at Earth First.
The reason we're not all about the certified fair trade organisations is because some of the countries where accreditation occurs have such minimal and lacklustre laws on minimum wage, child labour and working conditions that the accreditation may as well not exist...
Again... Not all... But some and some is enough for us to question whether or not it's enough...
THAT'S IT FROM US FOR NOW... HOPE THIS CREATED CLARITY FOR THOSE THAT HAD NO IDEA WHERE TO START ON THE ETHICS INVESTIGATION...
Leave us your questions/comments below!