As consumers, we are becoming increasingly aware of the impact our buying habits may have on our environment. As such, many of us are feeling the need to turn away from cheaper ‘fast fashion’ brands, who can produce a mass of clothing items at a low monetary cost, but often at a great cost to the planet. For example, it takes 2700 litres of water to make one cotton shirt and overall the fashion industry produces 20% of global wastewater. Furthermore, our individual ‘fashion cycles’ are now much shorter and more wasteful than they have been in the past. So, in conjunction with adjusting your own fashion habits, what should you look for in a brand to ensure you’re also buying responsibly?
1) Their environmental impact and conscience
This is arguably the most important consideration when you’re looking to shop responsibly. When looking at a brand’s environmental ethos, you should research their approaches to resources and raw materials, water and waste management. You should look for fashion brands who set clear goals to manage and reduce their environmental impact. Bonds, for example, is one clothing brand that has committed to a 40% reduction of their carbon emissions by 2020, and they’ve also set a target to divert 100% of their waste away from landfill by the same date. It’s also important to ensure that the brand uses organic or upcycled materials, rather than synthetic non-recycled materials such as polyester. By choosing to buy from an environmentally conscious brand, you can update your wardrobe free from guilt.
2) Attention to working conditions/rights of workers
Responsible buying doesn’t just include looking at a brand’s environmental impact, but also how they treat their employees. Given that there is a vast disparity between production and consumption in today’s fashion industry, there is a legitimate risk of employee exploitation. Again, you should be looking for a brand which takes pride in their workers, values diversity, supports their workers’ rights, and provides a safe workplace.
3) Charity and outreach involvement
This is perhaps one of the areas we pay less attention to, but another indicator of a responsible brand is their involvement with charity and community projects. Does the brand endeavor to create a positive social impact? Is it involved in charity work or funded initiatives? You can be even more confident that you are buying responsibly if the brand is not only environmentally conscious but socially conscious, too.
4) High ethical standards and transparency
You should also look for a brand that is committed to their ethical standards – they should have hardline policies in opposition to issues such as child labour and exploitation, animal testing, and so on. They should have a clear and easily accessible ethical code and should be transparent about the materials used in both their clothing products and the production process itself.
Overall, these are just a few examples of things to look out for to ensure you are buying responsibly and are having as little environmental and social impact as possible.