As the fashion industry continues to grow, it looks to less-developed countries to help it meet its manufacturing needs. While this move has driven much needed revenue to developing nations, it has also created a murky environment for ethical business practice . Even companies that are actively working to eliminate unfair work practices such as sweatshops from their supply chains, it can be a battle.. Here are a few ways in which companies can practise ethical manufacturing, while also raising the living standards of local communities as their economy grows.
What Is Ethical Manufacturing?
Ethical consumerism is all about consumers choosing to buy goods that are sourced ethically, distributed ethically and made ethically. When enough people choose to shop in a way that reflects these ethics, then companies can begin to change their practices. These changes can help people in the communities that manufacture goods earn a fair wage that supports them and ensure they are working in a safe, ethical manufacturing environment, rather than degrading, dirty or even dangerous conditions.
You’ve probably heard of sweatshops – they are the result of what happens when the principles of ethical consumerism aren’t followed. These places exploit workers, even employing children in hazardous jobs. They have authoritative overseers that enforce long hours and working conditions that can be damaging to workers health both physically and psychologically.
Unfortunately, the entire global fashion industry worldwide contributes to the problem of sweatshops – from manufacturers looking to maximise profits to consumers wanting to ‘stay trendy’ on a budget. Consumers demand goods at lower prices, and when they do that, companies begin to look outside their own countries for suppliers. Often, these suppliers are in countries such as Bangladesh, where workers may be paid as little as 19 pence per hour (far below the country’s livable wage) for their toil.
The Fashion Industry Can Help
It is possible for the fashion industry to become a force for change in the world, helping local economies to grow. Of course, this needs to be accomplished in the right way if it’s going to help workers across the world live happier and healthier lives.
The first thing those in the fashion industry (and consumers!) need to do is think about where their clothes are made. Companies can make sure that the people manufacturing their clothes have fair working conditions and are paid a living wage, and ensure they do not condone child labour practices. The importance of ethical manufacturing makes it vital for everyone to ask these questions, but especially for those in the fashion industry before they ever agree to produce a product with a factory or manufacturer.
Existing brands must take a hard look at the current production processes used. Any factory or manufacturer should be more than happy to answer questions about ethical practices. If they’re not, it’s a red flag. The same goes for consumers. If a brand can’t answer your questions about ethical production, then you simply have to assume they’re not living up to your ethical standards.
What Consumers Can Do
Say you’re browsing women’s waterproof parka coats or looking for that perfect navy bomber jacket. How can you ensure your search culminates in you buying ethically sourced clothing? It’s not as difficult as you may think.
Ask the following questions:
- Who made your clothes?
- Where were the clothes made?
- What are the conditions in the places they’re made?
Beyond those first few questions, you can dig a little deeper by contacting a company directly and asking them what their specific standards are when it comes to the wages of workers as well as the health and working conditions of the factories the clothing is manufactured in. Many companies are transparent in how they create and source their products, and some even have social impact reports that have all the information you need.
You can also choose smaller clothing companies that know their garment workers; the same goes for local clothing manufacturers. They likely know the people who produce their garments by their first names. Plus, when you support small businesses that follow ethical practices, you are also supporting your local community – and it really doesn’t get much more uplifting than that! You may pay a bit more for your clothing, but consider that paying for peace of mind in knowing a child was not put to work to stitch your favourite jacket.
Protected Species: Our Ethics
At Protected Species, we care about the impact our business has on local communities. That’s why we ensure that the fabric mills we use have excellent community programs that ensure workers are valued, safe, supported and highly trained. We also support after-school programs and programs at local hospitals in the communities that help us bring our garments to you.
Look to the Future
With a nudge in the right direction, the fashion industry can start to support a fairer working environment and a living wage for workers all over the world. It can help fragile, developing communities to rise up by ensuring that skilled work opportunities are available for everyone. And if done right, it can also ensure that instead of being exploited, a workforce is cared for and educated. So, do your part to make sure you’re buying ethically sourced products, and take companies to task if they don’t follow these standards.