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Life & Style

Fashion, Life & Style

Transparency: is it the new innovation in fashion?

transparency ethical fashion

transparency ethical fashion

Fast fashion dominates in our culture and, in order to keep up with the latest trend, we are provided with a constant stream of the latest ‘must-have’ pieces.

But do we know enough about the journey of our clothes?  Many fashion brands are still concealing unsafe and unfair working conditions, with a lack of transparency in supply chains.

Georgina Rawes from Ethical Consumer discusses the supply chains of some of the most popular high-street retailers and shines the light on some alternative brands who’ve built transparency into the heart of their business.

Who pays the price for cheap, fast fashion?

It’s been four years since the tragedy that unfolded at Rana Plaza, the Bangladeshi clothing factory that collapsed in 2013 killing 1,135 workers and injuring 2,500 more.  This awful incident opened the world’s eyes to the dire conditions that many workers endure in order to fulfil the fashion demands of the west.

Huge consumer pressure and campaigning followed this event, pushing most high-street brands to investigate their supply chains.  Many have taken action to clean up their act when it comes to understanding their supply chains, acknowledging the issues and starting to make positive changes.

In fact, our latest report into high-street retailers shows that 70% of high street retailers now receive our ‘best’ rating for supply chain management, but there is still a way to go.  The very fact that fast fashion needs to be produced cheaply drives a spiral of decreasing wages and tight timescales, which results in longer working hours and cost-cutting, sometimes at the expense of safety:

Clothes Shop Scorecard

Bad working conditions are still being reported today and most of the high-street retailers were marked down in our report for the worker’s rights category.  Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) reported in 2016 that factories producing clothes for GAP, H&M and Inditex (Zara) regularly forced workers to work excessively long overtime to meet disproportionally tight delivery times.  Workers were exposed to toxic chemicals, cotton dust and hazardous dust without protective gear, they received poor representation and did not receive a living wage.

It’s clear that more still needs to be done.

Brands built on ethical foundations

Rather than backtracking through a broken business model, trying to fix supply chain issues, there is a new breed of alternative retailers who are building their businesses from an ethical core.

In our alternative clothing report we reviewed a dynamic and eclectic group of ethical clothing stores.  Many of whom are going beyond the organic and Fair Trade labels, providing complete transparency in their supply chain, and celebrating a culture that puts workers’ rights first.  These companies are the pioneers and innovators of the slow fashion movement.

Meet our three best-of-the-best, when it comes to transparency, to see how they’re changing the face of fashion, with slow, lovingly-crafted pieces built on a fair foundation.

Know The Origin

Know the Origin ethical clothing

Know The Origin received 17 out of 20 on our ethical report, showing a commitment across the board to ethical and sustainable behaviours.  Their ‘seed to garmentweb page takes consumers through the six stages of their manufacturing process showing full transparency for each supplier.  They work with certified organic and Fair-Trade farmer-run cooperatives and all workers across the supply chain are guaranteed a fair living wage.  Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified dyes, which are 100% azo-free, ensure worker safety in their factories and they take transparency to a whole new level by encouraging factory visits.

Rapanui

Rapanui clothing

Rapanui puts transparency in the hands of the consumer through their innovative system.  Customers scan the QR code on the garment’s label to reveal a traceability map showing the journey from seed to product.

Rapanui pay workers 20-80% more than the minimum wage in each geographical area and carefully audit their suppliers to ensure that this policy is adhered to: ‘workers in our overseas supply chain have enough for their house, weekly shop and to send their kids to school looking smart – plus a little left over at the end’.

They have even opened this model up to other companies.  Their sister brand, Teemill provides other retailers and artists with the platform to design and print their own sustainable products, sourced from Rapanui’s robust supply chain.

Brothers We Stand

brothers we stand

Menswear online retailer, Brothers We Stand, requires all suppliers to provide a full breakdown of their supply chain.  But more than that, they must demonstrate a positive social or environmental impact before they will be considered.  The result is a fully vetted and transparent chain with accountability built in.

Their footprint tabs show ethical information for all items at point of sale, providing customers with all of the information they need to make an educated ethical purchase.

When brands are ready to open the doors and proudly display their supply chain, we’ll know that slow fashion is starting to take hold and that fast fashion may have run its course.  But in the meantime, you can support the companies who are doing it right now.

Check out our alternative clothing report for more information on these and a whole range of other brands.

 

Top image used courtesy of Know The Origin.

Life & Style

5 Ways To Help The Environment In Your Lunch hour

olio app

If you’re looking to help the environment but aren’t sure where to start then my advice is to always start small, as small steps often lead on to bigger steps.  If you’re starting out, then I’ve put together five really easy ways to help the environment, that you can do in your lunch hour.

5 Easy Ways to Help the Environment

 

1. Change Your Default Internet Search Engine

easy ways to help the environment

One easy way to help the environment by doing what you already do is to change your default internet search engine to Ecosia.  Ecosia uses over 80% of the profits generated from web searches to plant trees where they are needed most.  For example, in Borneo Ecosia are helping to plant different productive tree species to reduce the area’s economic dependence on palm oil.  Widespread deforestation in the area due to the palm oil trade is threatening the orangutan’s habitat in the area.  It’s a great conservation project, that you can help just by searching the internet!

2. Download a Food Waste App

olio app

Olio, available on both IOS and Android, is a great (free) app that you can download to connect with your local community.  Got a jar or packet in the back of your food cupboard that you’re not going to eat but is still in date?  Don’t bin it – list it on Olio to see if someone in your local area wants it for free.  Peckish but no food in the fridge?  See what’s going on Olio in your area.  Shops and cafes can even join to help distribute leftover food at the end of the day to help prevent food waste.

3. Switch to a renewable energy provider

There are heaps of renewable energy providers out there offering 100% renewable electricity, such as Good Energy, Ovo, Bulb and more.  We’re on the 100% renewable electricity package with Ovo, and the price difference when we switched from our tariff with one of the big six energy companies was minimal.  Switching is quick and easy, and you’ll help increase the appetite for renewable energy in the UK.

It’s important to bear in mind that when you switch to a green electricity supplier, the electricity that comes into your home still comes from the national grid.  It doesn’t affect the actual power, and the power in your home will not be 100% green.  The one thing is does affect is where the electricity on the national grid comes from: if you have a 100% renewable tariff your supplier has to match the power you have used by putting the same amount of renewable energy back into the national grid.  So by taking a few minutes out to switch to a green energy supplier you’re making a big difference to the environment without changing your behaviour.

4.  Tweet Retailers asking them to make a change

Another one of the easiest ways to help the environment is to use your consumer power and help encourage companies to make positive changes.

Plastic Bank, for example, pays people in developing countries a fair wage to collect washed up plastic on beaches. That plastic is then recycled into high grade Social Plastic, which is then resold.  You can help them by tweeting companies such as Unilever and Coca Cola to encourage them to use eco-friendly Social Plastic in their products.

Meanwhile, Fashion Revolution calls on consumers to tweet clothing companies to ask “who made my clothes” to encourage retailers to be more transparent with where their clothes are made and in what conditions.

Pick the cause closest to your heart and tweet away!

5. Download an ethical fashion tool

Downloading a browser extension on to your computer, such as Balu, can help you find ethical alternatives to the products you are looking to buy online.  Balu works away in the background, so all you have to do is search the web, and browse online shops, just like you always have done.  If Balu come up with an alternative to what you are looking at, it lets you know if there is a more ethical choice on the side of your screen.  It’s ethical shopping made easy.

Do you have any easy ways to help the environment?  What are your top tips for people starting out?

ps: here are some eco friendly lunch supplies if you’re looking to green your lunch break!