How do you know if a clothing company is ethical?
Sadly, a lot of fashion brands have cottoned on to the fact that ethics and sustainability are great marketing tools. They stretch the truth or manipulate words and imagery to make it seem like they're ethical when really they aren't. Here’s how we discover a brand’s ethics and how we here at EME find out if their claims are actually true.
In the latest installment of our You Ask We Answer series, we answer a great question from @stuuty via Instagram:
“What’s the easiest way to find the truth about a clothing company’s ethics?”
Ethical Made Easy began in 2016 to answer this exact question. Fast forward 4 years and the issue isn’t so much about finding ethical brands anymore, but knowing whether the claims they make about being ethical are accurate.
What do we mean by the truth? Well sadly, a lot of fashion brands have cottoned on to the fact that ethics and sustainability are great marketing tools. They stretch the truth or manipulate words and imagery to make it seem like they’re ethical when really they aren’t. Here’s how we discover a brand’s ethics and how we here at EME find out if their claims are actually true.
It’s all about transparency:
If a brand is ethical they’re going to want to shout it from the rooftops. After all, becoming truly ethical is no easy feat. It requires commitment to ethics at as many levels of the supply chain as possible. For example, Dorsu (a brand featured on our brand directory) works incredibly hard to do the right thing and that’s apparent in their website bio and in a lot of the content they post online.
Another way to look at transparency is around honesty and integrity. If a brand is totally transparent they will admit their faults and celebrate their wins. For example, Lois Hazel nails eco-friendly practices but admits they are not yet able to trace their entire supply chain. We’ll take this level of honesty and integrity any day because no one is perfect, and if they claim to be that’s when you should start questioning them.
So what if you can see the cracks?:
If you feel like a brand is making huge claims that don’t feel right (and you’ll know in your gut if it doesn’t feel right, trust us) these are the fail-proof ways to know if they are in fact telling the truth.
- Ethical brand platforms (yours truly)
Our first and potentially biased (sorry not sorry) answer is to validate their claims with an ethical platform like ours. We’re here for this exact reason, to help you find ethical brands. We not only ensure each brand we feature is telling the truth about their ethics, but we also test every brand before they go live on the website. These are unbiased tests to ensure the quality is high and the claims they make are in fact true.
So the next time you’re wondering if a brand is ethical, type it into the search bar on our website to see if we’ve given it the EME tick of approval. If it’s here, you can trust that we have full faith in the brand and it’s happy shopping from here on out.
If they aren’t on EME it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t an ethical brand. It may just mean we haven’t found them yet (in that case, send them our way and we’ll look into it for you).
- Show us your accreditations
One of the best ways to know if a brand is being honest about its ethics is to search for their accreditations and certifications. There is a range of accreditations available in Australia, some of which include:
- ETHICAL CLOTHING AUSTRALIA (ECA)
- GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD (GOTS)
- FAIR WEAR
- GLOBAL RECYCLED STANDARD (GRS)
- WORLD RESPONSIBLE ACCREDITATION PRODUCTION (WRAP CERTIFIED FACTORIES)
- ORGANIC CONTENT STANDARD (OCS)
If a brand is accredited, they will most likely share the fact on its website.
We also came across this website that features accreditations across a range of different industries (so you can check on the environmental impact of your fridge too if you like).
One thing to remember: while accreditations are a great way to quickly discover if a brand is ethical, they’re not the only determining factor as some ethical brands find it unnecessary or expensive.
- A good old news search
If you can’t find a brand on an ethical brand platform like EME or they aren’t showcasing any accreditations or transparency on their website, you can always search a brand in Google News to see if there have been any articles written about them. You’re always going to find articles nullifying H&M and Zara’s ethical and sustainable claims, that’s a no-brainer. But sometimes there are exposés written about brands that claim to be ethical when they aren’t. Take this recent article on Everlane, for example. It asks whether Everlane can call itself ethical after laying off many of its staff during the coronavirus crisis.
- Write a letter
Finally, if you still have questions about a brand’s ethics, head over to our resources page and grab these letter and email templates HERE. They’ll help you write a letter to ask a brand what their stance is on things.
We hope this helps you to decipher the often difficult realm of ethical fashion. Remember, if we remain persistent and keep asking questions brands will have no choice but to do better. And if you come to the end of these tips and you still aren’t sure about a company’s ethics, get in touch. We’ll look into it for you.