Last week the high end puffy jacket brand Moncler had 5% slashed from its share price when video of Hungarian geese being inhumanely plucked to fill their garments was aired on Italian TV. Moncler quickly claimed they weren’t their geese, but the brand damage was already done.
While the fashion industry is lagging in the move to more ethical production methods (we would never dream of buying cage eggs, but will trample anyone standing between us and a $69 cashmere v-neck), consumers’ demand for transparency on supply chain is growing.
We’re not suggesting that the only way to be an ethical fashion brand is to produce hemp kaftans or garments made from recycled car tyres, but the tide is turning and it’s always a good plan to be ahead of the pack. Despite fast fashion having a bad reputation in this area, H&M was just named one of the world’s most ethical companies, and has made a commitment to ethical production. Here’s how you can too:
- Your suppliers. A good start is to have all of your suppliers sign up to a code of conduct which is binding and commits them to meet the requirements you set regarding the environment, treatment of workers and animals, child labour, discrimination, bribery etc.
- Investigate your supply chain. Due to rampant subcontracting (and sub- subcontracting) within the manufacturing industry, there are probably many more people involved in the production of your garments than you think. Getting your suppliers to sign up to your code of conduct is great, but physically visiting the factories is also important. Zara learnt this the hard way in 2011 when they discovered that some of their garments were coming from a Brazilian sweatshop which had been subcontracted without their knowledge.
- The Bangladesh Accord. Following the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, many fashion brands have signed up to the Bangladesh Accord. The Accord requires participants to publish all of their manufacturers in Bangladesh, and contribute to health and safety costs at the factories.
- Certification. Whilst there isn’t a universally acknowledged certification system for ethical fashion just yet, you can look to certifications provided by organisations such as BCorp, Ethical Clothing Australia (if you manufacture here), Ethical Fashion Forum, and Fairtrade to give you some cred.