Interest in ethical clothing is growing, is your brand keeping up?
Ethical clothing refers to garments that are produced and manufactured in a way that promotes fair labour practices and also minimises harm to the environment.
What is ethical clothing?
As a response to the negative impacts of the textile and fashion industry, ethical clothing shows specific key aspects. For example:
Fair Trade and Labor Conditions: Ethical clothing ensures that workers involved in the production process receive fair wages, safe working conditions, and are not subjected to exploitation or forced labour.
Slow Fashion: Fast Fashion promotes rapid production and consumption of cheap garments. Instead, ethical fashion advocates for "slow fashion," which encourages buying fewer, high-quality pieces that are made to last. This approach reduces waste and encourages more sustainable consumption habits.
Ethical Certifications: Several certifications and standards help consumers identify ethical clothing brands, such as Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Fair Trade Certified, Bluesign, and OEKO-TEX Standard 100. These certifications ensure adherence to specific social and environmental criteria.
Social and Community Initiatives: Many ethical clothing brands actively engage in social initiatives and community development projects. They may support artisans, local communities, and fair trade cooperatives, thereby promoting economic empowerment and sustainable development.
- Reduced Environmental Impact: Ethical clothing aims to minimise its ecological footprint. This includes reducing the amount of animal-based raw materials, but also water consumption, energy usage, and waste generation throughout the production process. It may also involve recycling or upcycling materials and using environmentally friendly dyeing and printing methods.
Overall, ethical clothing aims to transform the fashion industry into a more sustainable and socially responsible sector by considering the environmental, social, and economic impacts of clothing production and consumption.
Is ethical clothing just a fad destined to pass?
The ethical fashion market is expected to grow to $11,122.2 million in 2027, at a rate of 8.1 percent. As more and more consumers become interested in sustainability, it seems logical to ask: is it just a trend?
In reality, whether fashion companies like it or not, ethical fashion is here to stay. In fact, consumer demands are supported by legislative initiatives.
In April 2023, members of the European Parliament began work on the European Commission's proposal to ban the import and export of goods produced with practices that do not respect human rights. The proposal was presented in September 2022, and the draft would also fall on goods produced in the EU. Goods found to be made with forced labour - relying on information gathered from various sources (such as NGOs) and considering high-risk regions and sectors - would be disposed of by national authorities. And it is up to companies to prove that they have respected human rights in their supply chains. The EU Parliament aims to close the project by February 2024, and by that date then member states have to come to an agreement.
How to keep up with ethical fashion
So, what should fashion brands do if they want to follow the ethical clothing trend?
First of all, they should conduct a thorough assessment of their supply chain to identify areas where improvements can be made. This includes examining raw material sourcing, manufacturing processes, and labour conditions. The goal is to ensure responsible practices throughout the supply chain.
Then, they must guarantee fair wages, safe working conditions, and respectful treatment for workers in their supply chain. This includes ensuring that workers have the right to organise and provide training and skill development opportunities.
Brands should also collaborate with ethical organisations, NGOs, and sustainability experts to gain insights, knowledge, and support in implementing sustainable practices. Working together can lead to shared learning and a more significant impact.
Of course, brands should reduce their environmental impact, but also educate their customers to buy fewer, high-quality garments and how their choice can benefit communities and the planet.
However, the key to being an ethical fashion brand is in transparency and traceability.
The role of transparency and traceability
Brands should be transparent about their practices and provide information about their supply chain, manufacturing processes, and the environmental and social impact of their products. It is this transparency that allows consumers to make informed decisions and holds brands accountable for their claims. But it also helps brands in case the authorities want to carry out checks.
Ethical clothing brands prioritise transparency throughout the supply chain. They strive to provide information about the origins of their materials, manufacturing processes, and the people involved in production. But how can they share this information?
The digital product passport can greatly benefit fashion brands that prioritise their ethical values. A digital product passport is a digital record that provides comprehensive information about a product's lifecycle, including its materials, manufacturing processes, and environmental and social impact. By documenting and sharing detailed information about the products and processes, brands can demonstrate their commitment to ethical practices.
Moreover, with a digital product passport, brands can track and trace their supply chain more effectively. They can ensure that suppliers adhere to ethical standards and meet environmental and social criteria. This visibility addresses any non-compliance issues, and establishes stronger relationships with suppliers who share the brand's values.
The secondary benefits of the digital product passport
In addition to what we have seen so far, the digital product passport has at least 3 secondary benefits:
Consumers Trust: Consumers can access the passport through mobile apps or websites and learn about the product's environmental footprint, labour conditions, certifications, and other relevant details. Engaging in open communication and storytelling about the brand's values, initiatives, and progress can help build trust and loyalty among consumers.
Circular Economy Initiatives: Digital product passports can support circular economy initiatives by providing information about a garment's recyclability and reuse options. Brands can use the passport to guide consumers on proper recycling methods or offer take-back programs to ensure that products are disposed of responsibly. This contributes to reducing textile waste and promoting the reuse of materials.
Continuous Improvement: The data collected through digital product passports can inform brands about their environmental performance and areas for improvement. They can analyse the information and identify ways to reduce their carbon footprint, optimise production processes, and improve the well-being of workers. This data-driven approach enables brands to set and achieve sustainability and social targets over time.
If you want to learn more about digital product passports and how to implement them, contact us.