Sustainainable Fashion Guide: How to Know if a Brand is Ethical?

It’s wonderful that brands are finally awakening to the fact that we, consumers, do actually care about the impact of our clothes on the environment and the people who make them.

 

Surely after the Rana Plaza atrocity, we can only move forward and turn towards kinder business models, right?

 

If there is something that I did grasp in my Economics classes, it’s that “supply follows demand”. So, the more of a demand there is for sustainable fashion, the more likely a supply for it will soon ensue.

 

Whilst this axiom certainly remains true, add a good dose of psychological prowess and some brands suddenly have an edge over their competitors without having made any changes for a more sustainable fashion model.

 

All it requires is a mere change in marketing strategy.

 

Greenwashing and whitewashing are common tactics that brands adopt to spin the illusion of having good ethics.

 

Think of all the green packaging you are surrounded with when you go to the laundry aisle or the yoghurt brands abounding with the word “natural” without ever using meaningful words such “organic” or “grass-finished”.

 

Believe it or not, the fashion industry works with the same type of marketing strategy in mind, but simply saying that they will improve their environmental impact by 2050 will not make the cut anymore. We want statistics, reports and evidence.

 

The same applies to the supply chain. It’s not uncommon for brands to claim that they have their workers’ rights and wellbeing at the forefront of their business priorities.

 

Visit the “about us” section of a major fashion brand and it will most likely state that it does not condone slavery or child labour; that they choose their workshops with the utmost care and that audits are carried out frequently.

 

Yet, over the years, the scandals concerning the lack of regard towards workers of the fashion industry and the ecosystem have sprung to the surface one after the other.

 

At the time this article is being written, the BBC has published an article expressing MPs’ concerns regarding the impact of fashion on the environment and the need for a more sustainable fashion model.

 

But you might be wondering, why do brands spend so much money on advertising that sustainability is at the core of their business model? Why not put that said money towards actually improving their impact on the world?

 

Well, unfortunately, for a lot of brands, it’s all about getting the “bang for their buck”. Yes, the answer lies in profits.

 

Building a sustainable fashion business is more expensive and requires a lot of processes to be put in place. Spending money on huge advertisement campaigns, on the other hand, tantamounts to more sales without going through the trouble of implementing changes.

So how do we spot the brands who are actually trying to make a difference from the ones who are weaving around us the fabric of a fair world fantasy?

 

Among this immense kerfuffle that we’re submerged in online, how do we single out the voices that are reliable?

 

In short, how do we know whom to trust?

 

It’s definitely not easy, but fortunately, there are some platforms out there who have made it their mission to research into those fashion brands and shed some light on how ethical they are.

 

In this sustainable fashion guide, we’ll look into some of the most user-friendly ones, so that next time you have doubts about a brand, you know exactly where to go!

 

Reliable Brand Reviewing Platforms

Ethical Consumer

Ethical Consumer offers a great service. Its greatness lies in the fact that you can customise their reviews to match your own values. It works on the notion that ethics are subjective and that each person has their own priorities when it comes to ethical fashion.

 

Each brand is given an overall score by taking their behaviour towards animals, the environment and the labour force into equal consideration.

 

But say you are personally more invested in animal rights.

 

As a subscriber, you can toggle a slider to weigh in the “animal rights” factor to a greater extent, thus giving you a score based on your own values. Incredible, right?

 

Ethical Consumer is a paid service, but it’s one that I personally think brings great value. Access to their brand reviews also comes with a magazine subscription to keep you updated with everything ethical plus discounts to help you with your ethical shopping!

 

If you want some free insight into brands’ ethical rating, they do have their best and worst rated brands available to everyone.

Good on You App

Good on You is a helpful little app you can refer to on your phone at all times.

 

Personally, I love the fact that when I’m on the Good on You app I don’t feel like I am on an ethical fashion platform. I mean, I do, because I am, but some of the most disheartening aspects of sustainable fashion are the lack of variety and the steep prices.

 

The ‘Good on You’ app counteracts that beautifully with regular discount codes and a variety of brands to peruse through.

 

With over 2,000 brand reviews under their belt, it’s easy to find out a brand’s ecological and social impact on the go. Not to mention the abundance of blog posts to help you along your sustainable journey. Motivating content and a free brand reviewing service within pocket reach? Yes, please!   

 

Rank a Brand

Rank a Brand has covered a vast range of brands over the years and their database is full of brands' ethical ratings for you to browse through quickly and efficiently.

 

All you have to do is search for a brand on their site and you’ll be presented with an ethical rating ranging from A-E along with a summary of why they received that particular score on the left-side corner.

 

They virtually do all the work for you by scouring public sources as well as the brand’s site for background information.

 

Their assessment is based on the industry’s standards for transparency, environmental impact and working conditions.

 

Very nifty for a free tool!

 

If you do have the funds to support their humble cause, they have a yearly membership which gives you the opportunity to have your say when deciding which brand to review next.

 

Shop Ethical!

Shop Ethical! is an incredible resource for finding ethical and sustainable brands.

 

User functionality is clearly a priority for this site; therefore making it easy to navigate and viewing the information you need quickly and efficiently.

 

 

I love how it’s all put neatly in a 3 column format; one for the praise the brand in question has been bestowed with, one for all the criticism it has received and a third one for listing all the resources Shop Ethical! used to reach their conclusion.

 

All we have to do as users is enter a brand name in the search engine and we are presented with an ethical brand review that takes into consideration labour rights, animal rights and, of course, mother earth’s rights!

 

Simple, elegant and useful.

 

Other Resources

Fashion Revolution

Fashion Revolution is probably one of the most famous anti-fast fashion movements.

 

They are well-known among millennials for their unique and engaging approach towards creating awareness around sustainable fashion.

 

If you’ve never heard of them, you’ve most likely heard of their viral campaigns such as the “who made my clothes” and the “haulternative” campaigns.

 

They aim to empower both consumers and retailers by advocating transparency.

 

Not only do they advocate transparency, but because their definition of transparency is itself very transparent, it exemplifies what the fashion industry should strive towards.

 

Another appealing aspect of Fashion Revolution is the range of ways they deliver their resources; from lengthy independent studies to more digestible content in the form of podcasts.

 

I usually listen to them while I’m doing bits and bobs around the house and it makes me feel like I’m being productive whilst also attending to the tedious little tasks of life!

Lucy Siegle

Lucy Siegle is a well-known environmental activist and she’s spoken against the horrifying acts of fast fashion a plethora of times. She’s appeared in the brilliant documentary “The True Cost of Fashion” where she has highlighted the failures of unethical fashion brands.

 

One of her comments was, “This enormous rapacious industry that is generating so much profit for a handful of people, why is it that it is unable to support millions of its workers properly?

Why is it that it is not able to guarantee their safety? We’re talking about essential human rights. Why is it that it is not able to guarantee that whilst generating  these tremendous profits?” (Lucy Siegle, The True Cost of Fashion)

 

To me, this sentence really hits home. The incongruity of the fast fashion industry lies in the immense gap between the amount of profits they generate and what their workers, on the other hand, earn.

 

Her articles on The Guardian is a perfect balance between criticism on fast fashion brands and excellent tips on how to adopt healthier fashion habits; healthier for us, garment workers and our lovely planet.

That's it!

Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, I hope these tips help you along your journey towards sustainable fashion. You now have several brand reviewing platforms in your repertoire to help you make better shopping decisions!  

 

Happy ethical shopping!

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