Here in France, summer "soldes" (sales) madness has hit. I love a good bargain, and sometimes want to buy things just because the mark-down is really great (thanks, Mum...). Something I'm really trying to get better at is buying ethically produced clothing and other products. It's not easy, especially on a tight budget and with so much information/misinformation out there.
I've noticed a whole bunch of companies lately bringing out ethical lines of products or releasing statements about where they're at, but in some cases, it isn't very convincing. *cough* Zara *cough*.
For those who don't know what it means to buy ethically, it means you are buying products from companies which are actively choosing to produce their products in a way which is better for the people working for the company, and/or for the environment. To put it simply: not producing their products in sweat-shops where the staff are paid only $0.10c per day, and seeking out materials which have less of an environmental impact.
Sounds good, but how do you know which companies check the right boxes? That's a very good question. For a start, here's the 2017 Ethical Fashion Report by TearFund, grading 106 companies, representing 330 popular fashion brands. I think the next review will look quite different, but that's still to be seen. Finding out who is doing the right thing is still quite a challenge, as many companies are quite closed about their production practices. If you're into YouTube, YouTuber Kristen Leo has lots of videos about this topic, and has directly emailed companies to ask about their ethical practices, and the responses have often been quite shady. Multi-million and -billion (and -trillion) dollar companies obviously have huge numbers of things to organise, so I can imagine that it is tough to keep track of everything that goes on. However, with the amount of profit those companies make, they can afford to put the right systems in place in order to monitor what's going on.
One thing I really want to mention is this argument: "But if we take business away from the sweat-shops etc., these people will be out of jobs!". Currently these people are being exploited. It isn't good enough. Exploitation is RIFE in this world, even in first-world countries, and we need to demand better. Better laws. Better protection. Better pay. Better environment. Insist.
Practically, how does one begin to shop ethically? There are a number of things I've started doing more often, and I can do better. Here are a few ideas:
- Check the labels to see where clothes are being produced (in some cases people are being paid properly, but sometimes the country of production can be an indicator of bad ethics).
- Do a Google search/ask to see what individual companies say about their ethical practices.
- Be willing to pay a bit more for quality items from local brands (less fast-fashion from multinational companies) - these items will likely last longer, too.
- Don't just buy things without a reason - I am always shocked by how many people have bought clothes which still have the tags on a year later!
- Op-shop/thrift-shop (but don't just buy things there from fast-fashion brands).
I also think we are going to soon see a big upsurge in the need for seamstresses, as people will turn to people to make tailor-made clothes once again. I already express my longing to have a personal shoemaker so I can have well-made, well-fitting shoes that don't kill my feet! If only I had the budget...
What do you do to shop ethically? What other info do you have on this issue that you can share with the class?