Greenwashing is all the rage and it’s not a trend to be happy about! As a consumer, you have the right to control what you buy. Unfortunately, too many companies still gild their image around false pretenses. Among the multitude of marketing slogans with eco-responsible promises, knowing if a brand is ethical can become a real headache. This is why we wanted to share with you the clues to look for.
What do we mean by ethics?
According to Larousse, this corresponds to the set of moral principles underlying a person's conduct. But this 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 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 decent remuneration, decent working hours, healthy and secure premises.
Working conditions in textile production workshops vary enormously from one country to another. In the majority of Europe, regulations are strict and controlled. This is particularly the case in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. This is why ethical brands naturally head towards these European factories which guarantee respect for workers.
In Asia, labor rights legislation is almost non-existent. It is common to find extreme, dangerous and illegal conditions there. Numerous accidents have been reported, 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 beyond the normal number of hours, an unsafe environment, exploitation of children are the daily lives of many factories in China, Bangladesh, India and many others.
But be careful not to throw stones at all the factories in Asia. Fortunately, there are some who work responsibly. For this, you can rely on 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 throughout the life cycle of its creations. From materials to transport of goods, including product transformation, each step must take ecological issues into account.
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 aglaia & co, this translates, among other things, into the use of recycled silver in our jewelry.
- Total traceability to control the entire chain, as is increasingly the case with our ethically sourced stones (the latest: the Nyala pink sapphire).
Transformation processes can quickly become energy-intensive, water-intensive and harmful to the planet. Hence the importance of paying attention, for example, to the composition of clothing 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 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 designed and created to be worn for a very long time.
Let's go a little further with plant-based materials for brands committed to supporting animals
When we are interested in ethical fashion, we do not always find a reference to animal respect. However, it is impossible not to take it into account in our opinion.
Vegan items (plant-based leather goods, textiles of non-animal origin, etc.) and cruelty-free beauty products must complement good working conditions for workers and reduced ecological impact.
We can cite the PeTA label which ensures that no animal materials have 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 launching into 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 there are areas that can still be improved.
- Timeless, quality pieces that last 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 as fair as possible, 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.
- The labels. Please note, obtaining a label for a small business has a significant cost. Not all responsible brands necessarily have it. If we should not stop at this pledge, it nevertheless remains a good indicator.
Choosing ethics means embracing values. We advise you to take a look at the website 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 which aims to use the ecological argument to give an eco-responsible image when it is nothing of the sort. There is only one step between lies and abuse of language. Greenwashing is unfortunately still very present in the communications of many companies.
The number 1 intention of a true ethical brand is to offer people the power to choose quality products that respect people and the environment. It's not about pushing people to buy. But greenwashing companies have the art of manipulating information to lure consumers. If you have any doubts about their communication, if something is not clear or if it is too good to be true, there may be something fishy...
Buying French or European and using eco-responsible materials has a cost. An abnormally low price is generally not a good sign. But beware ! A price that is too high is not a guarantee of an ethical product either.
One last little piece of advice... Try to look beyond the simple marketing hook. Behind seductive slogans can hide a completely different reality.
Biological materials? OK, but in what proportion? And what about the working conditions of the workers? Made in France? Hmm, are you sure? Abuse 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 overcome many challenges to succeed in creating ethical products. It's not every day, but being 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 need to find out and have a global vision of the firm in question.
On our Instagram account, we regularly organize competitions in partnership with companies sharing values similar 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, will we meet there?