4 Ways To Know If A Company Is Ethical & Sustainable

Now that you’re creating your capsule wardrobe we know you want to fill it with clothes that won’t hurt the environment or the people who made them. We are totally with you on this one.  But sometimes it’s hard to know if a company is really trying to make the world a better place or if they’re just really good at making it seem that way. Or perhaps you just want to know if you’re favorite brand is still ok to buy.  Either way we have 4 tips to help you figure it out. 

1.    Fairtrade

One way to know that the clothes you are buying were made ethically is by Fairtrade certification. In addition to recognizing and upholding ILO standards (International Labor Organization) Fairtrade certified companies also have to comply with these factory standard requirements:

•    “Fair Trade Premiums. Workers decide democratically how to allocate additional funds, whether to distribute a cash bonus or invest in a community need.”

•    “Worker Voice. Workers receive training on their rights and have confidential channels to report grievances or complaints, both within and outside the facility.”

•   “Women’s Rights. Standard has specific provisions to protect women’s rights, prevent sexual harassment, and promote equal pay.”

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Many companies tell you that they are Fairtrade at the top of their websites home page. But it’s always good to check the bottom of their website’s page to see if there is a Fairtrade Organization certification label. This should be next to or under their “About Us,” “Help” or other links at the bottom of the page.

2.    Global Organic Textile Standard

Very simply GOTS certification means that textiles are composed of a minimum of 70% organic fibers. GOTS also keeps track of “data on energy and water resources and their consumption per kg of textile output, target goals and procedures to reduce energy and water consumption per kg of textile output.” Which essentially means they are trying to help companies track and use less water and energy while making textiles. Pretty cool.

You should find the certification label on the product, or you can look up the producer/retailer/brand in their public database by typing in their name into the “free text” section. The database provides details such as the categories of GOTS certified clothing from that company, their fiber content and the link to their website. How helpful! 

3.    Self-Enforced Codes or Inspections on Trade & Environmental Issues

 Most companies have a Code of Conduct or Code of Ethics available for their customers to read on their website. Again this is usually placed at the bottom of their home page next to or under their “About Us,” “Help” or other links. With some companies this information can be harder to find. So take some time to poke around. These codes of conduct typically explain the company’s standards on sustainability and human rights and what they are implementing in their company to meet these standards. Often times this involves inspections both internally and through third party audits. 

When you are looking to see if a company is adhering to any codes or allowing inspections make sure that they are self-enforced. For example the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act is something many companies are forced to adhere to. However, the information provided about the steps companies are taking to put this act into practice is almost always vague and extremely non-descript.

A more convincing code to follow is something like The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. All the factories that signed the accord “are subject to independent inspections on fire, electrical and structural safety.” The accord’s website also has the plans for “corrective action” and reports of all the factory inspections. These companies voluntarily signed up to be inspected and held accountable for what happens in their factories, which is really cool of them. 

The important thing to remember here is that the more detail of the ways a company is implementing the standards stated in their code or information on the reports from their inspections the better.  

4.    Transparency

One of the most important factors to know if a company is ethical and sustainable is their amount of transparency. Do they make it hard for their customers to find information about where they source their materials and who makes their clothes? Or are they proud of the way that they run their company? Do they encourage their customers to ask questions? Or are they vague about what they are doing behind the scenes.

Obviously the more forth coming a company is the better! A company who is working hard to make the smallest impact on the planet possible and who is working to respect the rights of their workers will be proud of that. They’ll want to share it with you their customer who also wants those things.

You’ll be surprised once you start reading those “About” pages how much you will and won’t find out. You got the facts, now go forth and research!