Trying to nail down an exact definition of ethical consumerism is a bit like trying to catch a butterfly – it keeps on getting away from you at the last minute. It seems that everyone has an opinion when it comes to the question, ‘Exactly what is ethical consumerism?’
The phrase began to be bandied about back in the 1950s, when what became known as ‘fair trade’ initiatives started up in North America. Subsequently, inspired by the so-called ‘hippy’ movement of the ’60s, people were motivated to think more about themselves as individual consumers in their own right. With the realisation that we could influence the sellers’ market simply by making the choice to buy one product over another, more and more people – perhaps unwittingly – contributed to the formation and growth of the ethical consumption model.
The first Alternative Trading Organisation (ATO) was formed in Holland in the 1960s. It was called ‘SOS Wereldhandel’ – the latter translates as ‘world trade’, and the SOS stands for Support Underdeveloped Regions.
So, to try and encapsulate a worthy definition of ethical consumerism, it’s probably best summed up here by developmenteducation.ie: ‘recognising the power that YOU have, as a consumer of goods and services, in influencing business to be more sustainable, ethical and accountable’.
What is Oeko-Tex?
Oeko-Tex has its headquarters in Zurich and was founded in 1992 in response to consumer concerns about harmful matter in textile products. Founding members consisted of the German Hohenstein Institute and the Austrian Textile Research Institute. Oeko-Tex is a registered trademark and is also the shortened name for the International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile and Leather Ecology (Oeko-Tex certainly rolls off the tongue a little easier!).
The Association has grown exponentially, and now includes 18 research institutes across Europe and Japan and contact offices in more than 70 countries around the world. In a nutshell, what Oeko-Tex does is certify that textiles and fabrics are free from harmful chemicals and therefore safe for human consumption. If you buy something that has an Oeko-Tex label, you can rest assured that your product does not contain harmful levels of more than 100 substances that are known to be potentially damaging to human health. The Association issues several different labels; the main one is known as Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex. One label is specifically for leather products, and some labels even attest to socially and environmentally safe conditions during the production process.
A couple of facts worth noting: over 10,000 manufacturers in nearly 100 countries currently participate in the Oeko-Tex Association certification procedure and, to date, the Association has issued more than 160,000 Standard 100 certificates for textile products. According to the Oeko-Tex website, updates are made on an annual basis in order to accommodate the latest scientific discoveries. It’s good to see so many positive steps being taken to help preserve our planet and to help the consumer make better choices.
Oeko-Tex and Ethical Consumerism
As the Oeko-Tex website says: ‘Since 1992, our portfolio of independent certifications and product labels has enabled companies along the textile chain and all consumers to make responsible decisions in favour of products that are harmless to health, environmentally friendly and manufactured in a fair way.’
Food labelling began back in the 70s, and it’s becoming ever-more transparent and informative. In most cases, we can now choose what we eat, where it comes from, exactly what it contains and how it’s made/packaged. The same is true for clothing. With the introduction of more and more clear labelling, we are informed about exactly what we are buying and the process the garment has gone through prior to being available for purchase in a store or online.
In other words, we can exercise ethical consumerism by choosing to purchase only from brands that use ethical, sustainable and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. Of course, this is dictated by the market somewhat, as the right goods have to be available for us to choose and informative labelling has to be in place. This is why the Oeko-Tex trademark and others like it are so important in order for us to make sound choices.
Protected Species and Oeko-Tex
Here at Protected Species, we’re proud to say that each piece in our waterproof women’s coats and jackets ranges is Oeko-Tex certified. Textile products can only receive the Oeko-Tex labelling if all components of the garment meet the necessary criteria – in other words: threads, linings, zips, buttons and other accessories are all included. The fabric mill where our products are made, in addition to being Oeko-Tex standard, is also Blue Sign certified. Blue Sign certification means that they provide a safe and sustainable environment for all their employees. Our mill uses eco-energy, eco-materials and eco-engineering. They declare their carbon footprint and have all the testing in place to ensure that they don’t use or release any harmful substances into the environment.
When you buy from Protected Species, you will not only be making a good ethical choice – you’ll also be acquiring a stylish, flattering and multi-functional waterproof raincoat that will stand the test of time. If you’re looking for a women’s waterproof coat but are unsure which one to go for, check out our blog on how to choose a women’s waterproof jacket.
Hopefully this article has gone some way in answering the question ‘What is Oeko-Tex and why is it important for ethical consumerism?’, and you now feel a little more empowered when making those all-important buying decisions in future.