Ethical Brands Embracing Ethical Standards
In today's growing ethical consumer industry, many times the label "ethical" itself comes into question. Common descriptions include "give back brand", "fair trade", "slave labor free", "child labor free", etc. What exactly does it mean to be an ethical brand? and what standards do brands such as Sevenly adhere to?
Let's start with the most commonly used label, "Fair Trade." The United States Department of Labor explains that, "the Fair Trade program is primarily aimed at ensuring a 'fair' price for producers at the bottom of the supply chain, but producers must also meet child labor, forced labor and other labor standards in order to earn the 'Fair Trade' label." Therefore, when an organization defines their products as Fair Trade, they are eliminating all forms of slave labor and sweatshop practices.
Many brands value this certification, taking their relationship with their artisans, manufacturers, and producers extremely seriously. A great example of this would be Noonday Collection, based in Austin, Texas, who ensures fair practices throughout every process of the production chain:
At Noonday, our commitment to fair trade means much more than simply meeting a list of standards – it means building strong relationships with Artisan Businesses so we can make an impact together. This commitment also means actively engaging in the fair trade community and publicly affirming our commitment to fair trade.
Organizations such as the Child Labor Free work to eliminate the use of child labor in production models. The International Labor Organization and the United Nations define Child Labor as, "work undertaken by a Child, which: The Child is legally prohibited from undertaking; or Is likely to be harmful to the Child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development; or Interferes with a Child’s education." Brands, companies, and organizations can gain the Child Labor Free certification by having their manufacturing and production practices closely examined by CLF.
More broad terms such as "ethically sourced" encompass a variety of characteristics. On top of fairness to humanity, ethically sourced can also infer the use of sustainable, vegan, and/or organic materials that are not harmful to the enviornment. While there are not currently any governmental certifications for these categories, organizations such as the Bluesign System focuses on minimizing risk to the environment. Girlfriend Collective perfectly states their mission, explaining:
Girlfriend Collective’s fabric is so proud to be Bluesign® certified. All manufacturers who become partners with Bluesign® agree to ensure high environmental safety and performance in five areas: consumer safety (everything in our leggings is super safe), resource productivity, water emissions, air emissions, and workplace health and safety. Guess what? As a partner, we’ve proven that we reach those standards, will continue to send reports, and promise to open our facilities up to on-site audits.
Now that we've covered the most common descriptions of ethical fashion, you may be wondering, what standards does Sevenly commit to?
Flagship brands in the ethical fashion space like Sevenly face nuanced as well as direct challenges. Because of Sevenly's involvement in the non-profit sector, as a give back brand, the company has a clearly stated commitment to "social good" outcomes. But there are aspects of the social good equation that are less obvious. Because they partner each week with a new non-profit, they are very aware of common manufacturing processes that could potentially be harmful to humanity and the environment. Accordingly, Sevenly management ensures that each one of its "advocacy apparel" items are printed on high-quality, tag-less, fabric blocks that are made of either 100% ringspun cotton, poly/cotton mix, poly/cotton/viscose, or tri-blend fabric. Their products are Fair Trade and certified slave-free.
But Sevenly's value commitments continue to press into new aspects of the organization. It's a process. Sevenly's products are fulfilled, for example, by a for-benefit company, Doing Good Works, which helps employ and mentor kids coming through the foster care system. The company recently made the decision to change its packaging to new packaging that is made from entirely recycled material which is both recyclable and reusable, creating better outcomes for the environment. Similarly, in the past Sevenly communicated about its mission and causes supported through a throw-away card inserted along with each order. Beginning next month, Sevenly will instead send a reusable hangar to accomplish the same objective.
The management team takes pride in continuing to make the kind of decisions that show a commitment to continuous , incremental improvement -- what the Japanese call Kaizen.
Indeed, the process of cultivating an ethical brand is ongoing, and involves an ongoing analysis of all aspects of the business.
Because the world needs more Kaizen for Good. : )