by Anna Rohwer
For example, numerous fashion brands have developed ethical strategies meant to appeal to conscious consumers. H&M started a Conscious Collection made with organic and recycled material. Zara has developed eco-efficient stores; Puma has a biodegradable InCycle Collection; and Gap aims to benefit female garment workers through its P.A.C.E. program. While these strategies give companies the appearance of being ethical, it’s possible that some are simply illusions. Just because a brand claims to be ethical doesn’t mean it has taken the necessary steps to align its actions with its words at every step of its supply chain, and just because a brand develops an “ethical” fashion line doesn’t mean its overall business practices have changed much.
The challenge is for consumers to discern between the companies that are serious about being socially and environmentally ethical and those that are simply utilizing marketing schemes to improve their image. Lewis Perkins of nonprofit Cradle to Cradle shares: “There are so many initiatives out there right now that are ‘sustainable,’ ‘green’ or ‘eco.’ I think it is really confusing for the consumer to understand and validate what it means.” So, while it’s encouraging to see brands claim to pay fair wages or sell only environmentally sustainable clothing, you shouldn’t take these statements at face value; such claims may still warrant investigation. Unless a brand publicly makes its full supply chain transparent, you need to do your research.
Here are some strategies for obtaining the information about companies and products that can help you make informed decisions about your clothing purchases, as well as options if you need to make some changes in your buying habits: