Ethical fashion: the gift that keeps on giving

Ethical fashion: the gift that keeps on giving

Ethical fashion: the gift that keeps on giving

The catchphrase for Christmas is “tis better to give than to receive”, and the best way to enjoy the holiday season this year is to ensure that you give back to the world. How can you do that, you ask? Shopping is your best bet.
We know, it sounds like a dream, but it’s true that you can give back by making a conscious choice to shop ethically. Oxfam Australia released its annual “nice and naughty” list in November, which highlights the best and worst companies for transparency on the locations of their factories. Locating the factories of a company allows charities such as Oxfam to ensure that the workers there are being treated well and the surrounding environment is not suffering. You can see in the list below that the ‘naughty’ list is far smaller than the ‘nice’ section.

ethical fashion
Credit: Oxfam

Unfortunately it looks like some of Australia’s favourite retailers are clinging to unethical business practices which perpetuate lasting damage to human rights, environmental protection and animal wellbeing. Even some of those on the ‘nice’ list are not considered entirely ethical, such as H&M, which has been mired in labour controversies. ‘Nice’ is the tick of transparency, so that such controversies can be more easily identified and addressed. However, these ‘naughty’ companies are not cooperating with transparency.

Just Jeans and Peter Alexander (The Just Group)
The company that owns these two Aussie favourites unfortunately appears quite blasé about workers’ rights. They don’t publish any locations of their factories, don’t commit to a wage level, and can’t provide supply chain traceability. This is definitely unethical practice, so maybe rethink your idea to give your sister those Peter Alexander PJs.

Best & Less
While it published a set of policies for suppliers for the protection of worker’s rights, the company hasn’t published where it’s factories are located so there is no way to check on the welfare of workers. Hopefully Best & Less will continue to move forward towards ethical fashion.

The best of a bad bunch, Topshop does well to have good sourcing policies and codes of conduct and good information about auditing. However, they haven’t posted their factory locations so it’s still not an ethical choice of clothing supplier.

Uniqlo follows in Topshop’s footsteps as a better unethical choice, with good policies and codes. However, their limited sourcing information needs to be augmented to ensure ethical practice.

ZARA (Inditex)
Inditex is a controversial ‘naughty’ choice because they have published the locations of their dyeing mills where they source fabric, yet Oxfam contends that this is not enough for the transparency tick. They would have the locations of the sewing factories as well, which will hopefully be the next step.

gorman and Dangerfield (Factory X)
Both companies have published a code of conduct for their suppliers, and gorman has provided some auditing details, yet the omission of factory locations is glaring. Factory X received a F rating in another ethical review, which is definitely a reason not to buy that cute gorman print dress.

ASOS has changed it’s ways (as you can see in their published reviews of purchasing practices) and, although they haven’t published a list of factory locations, they have promised to do so soon. They also have solid codes of conduct and policies to protect workers’ rights.

A more thorough list of the ethical practices of Australian retailers can be found at Behind the Barcode , which ranks how ethical retailers are in their treatment of employees. The project, which was created by Baptist World Aid Australia, publishes annual reports on which brands are moving forward and which are falling behind.
If you’re worrying about how you’ll ever find clothes in this unethical retail world, not to fret. We’ve got a list of the best tips on how to shop ethically to minimise your impact on the earth and fellow living creatures.

  1. Go old school
    Shopping for second-hand (*ahem* vintage) clothes is very ethics-friendly because it doesn’t contribute any new impact to the environment or factory workers. Also, a lot of second-hand shops (like Vinnie’s and the Salvation Army) contribute a portion of their profits to charity, so you’ll be spreading the love.
  2. Splash out
    Buying better quality (and often more expensive) pieces means that they’re more likely to be produced in ethical conditions. They’ll also last longer and continue to look good. Make sure you get basic pieces you can mix and match.
  3. Reduce, reuse, recycle
    Jack Johnson knows what he’s talking about, although he probably wasn’t referring to fashion. You can reduce your impact by reducing the amount of clothing and other fashion items you buy. I know I’m not the only one with a closet stuffed with articles I’ve outgrown! One of the best ways to reuse these clothes is to hold a clothes swap with friends. That way you’ll get some new items without having to spend a cent! Or you can sell your old items to make some cash. However, donating them to charity is the most ethical choice.
  4. Pick one of the retailers that’s been ethically approved
    From the Ethical Clothing Australia tick of approval to being named on an ethical retailer list (i.e. Behind the Barcode), you’ll be able to find plenty of ethical clothing choices for any budget.

If you’re unsure about the ethics of your favourite store, or you want to find the best place to shop for ethical Christmas gifts, Good on You is a great resource.
The app has examined over a thousand brands on the effect and sustainability of their products and publicised the results on their app. Each brand is evaluated on their action in three key categories: people, environment and animal treatment. The rankings provide a holistic perspective of a brand’s ethical priorities and can help you decide whether their clothes are worth the price.

ethical fashion
Credit: Good on You

So make a choice this Christmas to shop ethically and share the season’s joy with factory workers and animals alike. Doing your bit by doing what you love sounds good to us!


Adelaide Lang


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