Recently, there’s been a lot of conversation about climate change and the effect it has on the planet. Air pollution, water pollution and everything else that goes with it can have grave consequences both for the environment and people’s health (since these two are intertwined). Unfortunately, excessive consumption and plastic waste are an integral part of massive production processes, so it’s no surprise that many brands just go along with it, pretending that these don’t have any effects on the planet.
Luckily, things are changing in the right direction, so it’s no wonder that a lot of people are starting to advocate for minimalism, slow fashion, fair trade, and eco-friendly business practices. Therefore, if brands want to stay relevant and keep their share of profits, they surely need to become more responsible and learn how to adapt. So, here’s a list of things that all responsible brands have in common:
They aim to create less plastic waste
Plastic waste is one of the biggest culprits why seas and oceans are in such a bad state, including all the living creatures that live there. The majority of fast-fashion brands produce clothes that have high levels of polyester which is basically plastic. Now, since plastic is often cheap, available and easily-disposable, many brands use it without thinking much, and then at the end, it’s the consumers that get shamed for using too many plastic products.
If they want to become more eco-friendly, brands should aim to find better and equally-cheap alternatives to their plastic ingredients, so they won’t suffer a tremendous loss that comes with adjusting prices that come with switching to more expensive manufacturing ingredients. Similarly, if they must use plastic, there should be a way to recycle or at least reuse it, so it won’t cause a lot of harm to the environment.
They use fair employment practices
Using child labor is prohibited, and making people work in terrible and unhealthy conditioned has been banned pretty much in the whole West, but there are places in the world (mostly in Asia), where people are so poor that they must work for low wages in overheated production halls as they have to provide for their families.
Therefore, brands use their terrible living conditions to open factories and pay these people very little to produce fast fashion products that will only last for one season. And even though shaming and boycotting these companies seems like the right thing to do, that can actually be counterproductive, as these impoverished people can still benefit from being employed and working for an international corporation.
If you, as a consumer want to change things for the better, the best thing would be to urge brands to provide people with safe, clean and humane working conditions, including meals, health care and days off, so they will feel safe and motivated to work and get themselves out of poverty.
They aim to educate those who matter
Many Western eco-activists and journalists are quick to protest, boycott and disavow brands they happily used not too long ago, if they find them to be “unethical” or “engaging in exploiting local cheap labor”. That might look like a noble reaction, but it’s quite hypocritical, considering that it’s quite easy to preach from a very privileged position many Westerners have.
Now, feeling discontent with brands such as H&M and Zara is fine, but before you start boycotting, there’s one thing that needs to be clear: there are many brands who find legal loopholes in those countries or they get incentives from local governments in order to stay and create jobs for impoverished locals who struggle to pay bills and feed their children.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering the levels of poverty in some of those countries, but recently, a lot of governments are doing their best to employ clean and safe manufacturing practices that don’t cause any harm to the environment.
For example, in the last few years, the central Chinese government has made a significant effort to reduce the effects of pollution in China, and that is a big achievement, considering that dealing with pollution is hard work that requires a lot of planning. Therefore, brands that still opt to work in China, but with improved terms and conditions regarding the pollution and waste, are actually worth praising, since, through their actions, they’re doing their part when it comes to minimizing the consequences of global warming.
They care for the environment
Most corporations and factories provide some kind of waste that can be hazardous for the environment. Sometimes, that is necessary and can’t be avoided, but what can be avoided is finding a way to use that waste in a way that won’t harm the people and the planet.
Using technology to discover new methods that could be used for processing and adapting hazardous materials into something reusable. This practice can be beneficial to everyone, as it will help minimize the toxic waste, and plus, there will be more recycling and, therefore, a lot more new jobs in the process.
Giving back to the communities
Being philanthropic is probably one of the best things a brand can do. Now, in this case, giving to a charity doesn’t mean having shady organizations that actually don’t contribute much to the well-being of others. Giving to charity/helping communities has to have a meaning and it needs to have a visible effect on the lives of those that brand claims they’re helping.
Helping those who are ill can always have a great effect on the brand’s overall image, and plus, doing a good thing is always something a brand with awareness should do. Besides, creating job/internship opportunities for those from disadvantaged backgrounds can have a much bigger impact than posting socially-aware content on Instagram without doing much in reality.
In conclusion, being an ethical clothing brand isn’t easy and for a lot of brands, it requires a lot of readjustment and planning. People believe that switching to eco-friendly and more aware practices is easy, but in reality, it does require careful execution and prepare. Therefore, urging brands to is definitely the right thing to do, but sometimes having a bit of patience and doing your bit individually can also be helpful and effective.