Greenwashing is all the rage and it's not a trend to celebrate! As a consumer, you have the right to control what you buy. Unfortunately, too many companies still gild their image around false pretences. Among the multitude of marketing slogans with eco-responsible promises, knowing if a brand is ethical can become a real headache. That's why we wanted to share with you the clues to look out for.
What do we mean by ethics?
According to the Larousse, this corresponds to all the moral principles underlying a person's conduct. But that remains very vague… With this definition, it is difficult to identify whether a brand is truly ethical.
By questioning what moral principles are, we understand better that it is a question of differentiating between what is right and what is not. Thus, a brand is ethical if it respects the world around it. It must therefore have a positive social and environmental impact. We can even go further by specifying the commitment to animal welfare.
An important criterion to know if a brand is ethical: respect for the working conditions of men and women
The societal factor is a fundamental ethical pillar. Every employee must be respected. This requires correct remuneration, decent hours, healthy and secure premises.
Working conditions in textile production workshops vary enormously from one country to another. In most of Europe, regulations are strict and controlled. This is particularly the case in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. This is why ethical brands naturally go to these European factories guaranteeing respect for workers.
In Asia, legislation on labor rights is almost non-existent. Extreme, dangerous and illegal conditions are common. Many accidents are to be deplored, such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh on April 24, 2013, causing 1,138 victims and more than 2,000 injuries.
Non-compliance with the minimum wage, working days well in excess of the normal number of hours, an unsafe environment, the exploitation of children are the daily life of many factories in China, Bangladesh, India and many others.
But be careful not to blame all the factories in Asia. Fortunately, there are those who work responsibly. For this, you can rely on the various fair trade labels, such as the FairWear Foundation.
Identify an eco-responsible brand thanks to its impact on the environment
The second moral principle is environmental protection. An ethical company must have a reduced impact on the entire life cycle of its creations. From the materials to the transport of the goods, through the transformation of the product, each stage must take into account the ecological issues.
The choice of raw materials is very important to avoid drawing on natural resources as much as possible:
- Organic and environmentally friendly textiles (like our GOTS certified organic cotton t-shirts).
- Recycled materials promoting the circular economy. At aglaïa & co, this translates, among other things, into the use of recycled silver in our jewelry.
- Total traceability to control the entire chain, as is the case with more and more of our ethically sourced stones (the latest: the pink Nyala sapphire).
Transformation processes can quickly be energy-intensive, water-intensive and harmful to the planet. Hence the importance of paying attention, for example, to the composition of a garment to avoid textiles made from chemical products.
Companies choosing local stakeholders reduce transport distances, which drastically reduces their carbon footprint. One more point in favor of the environmental impact!
Finally, ecological fashion is sustainable fashion. No more items that we buy and throw away at the end of the season. They must be thought out and created to be worn for a very long time.
Let's go a little further with plant-based materials for brands committed to animals
When one is interested in ethical fashion, one does not always find reference to animal respect. However, it is impossible not to take it into account in our opinion.
Vegan pieces (vegetable leather goods, textiles of non-animal origin, etc.) and cruelty-free beauty products must complement the good working conditions for workers and the reduced ecological impact.
We can cite the PeTA label which ensures that no animal material has been used.
6 clues to recognize an ethical brand
When you discover a new brand, how do you know if you can trust it, if it respects ethical criteria, without embarking on an investigation worthy of those of Sherlock Holmes?
- Transparent and clear communication.
- The customer must be aware of what he is buying.
- Ethical brands talk about their commitments and are not afraid to be honest if certain points can still be improved.
- Timeless, quality pieces that keep for a long time are part of the slow fashion approach, namely sustainable fashion.
- Few collections and limited stock to avoid overproduction and overconsumption.
- Moderate sales. The initial prices are already at the fairest, so companies cannot cut prices, unlike fast fashion brands whose margins are very wide.
- The use of ecological materials that you can check by looking at the composition listed on the labels.
- Labels. Be careful, obtaining a label for a small business has a significant cost. Not all responsible brands have it. If we should not stop at this pledge, there is nevertheless a good clue.
Choosing ethics means embracing values. We advise you to take a look at the websites of the brands you are wondering about and take a look at their about page and their commitments.
Beware of greenwashing in fashion!
Greenwashing or greening, in its French terms, is a marketing technique that aims to use the ecological argument to give an eco-responsible image when it is not. Between lies and abuse of language, there is only one step. Greenwashing is unfortunately still very present in the communications of many companies.
The number 1 intention of a true ethical brand is to give people the power to choose quality products that are respectful of people and the environment. It's not to push for a purchase. But companies adept at greenwashing have the art of manipulating information to deceive consumers. If you have any doubts about their communication, if something is unclear or if it's too good to be true, there may be something wrong...
Buying French or European and using eco-responsible materials has a cost. An abnormally low price is generally not a good sign. But beware ! Too high a price is not a guarantee of an ethical product either.
One last piece of advice... Try to see beyond the mere marketing hook. Behind catchy slogans can hide a completely different reality.
Biological materials? OK, but how much? And what about the working conditions of the workers? Made in France? Hmm, are you sure? Misuse of language is common. As we explain in our article on fashion made in France, the term French manufacturing does not always mean what we think.
Obviously, responsible brands must meet many challenges to succeed in creating ethical products. It's not rosy every day, but constantly improving is a necessary challenge to participate in a fairer world.
To avoid falling into the tentacles of greenwashing, there is no miracle, you have to get information and have a global vision of the firm in question.
On our Instagram account, we regularly organize contests in partnership with companies that share similar values to ours. This is an opportunity for us to spoil you and introduce you to other brands, which also strive to be responsible and ethical. So, see you there?