How do we know which retailers have ethical practices? Related to the Bangladeshi factory tragedy

(265 Posts)
Cristiane Sun 28-Apr-13 07:15:05

The news from Banglaesh gets worse and worse - 352 people dead so far in the collapses factory where people made clothes for Matalan, Primark and ther names.

I don't want to buy from labels that don't use sweat shops and don't use suppliers that have coercive or dehumanising working conditions. Does anyone know if there is a list prepared of the most ethical retailers?

timetogrowup Wed 08-May-13 08:26:44

Yep, there's no intrinsic link between quality and ethically produced.

FrugalFashionista Wed 08-May-13 09:38:24

Another reply - from the inquiry I sent out yesterday to Repeat Cashmere.

"Dear Ms Frugal
Thank you for your email. I would like to give you some more information about the production of our products.

Where does Cashmere come from?
The material is from the Cashmere goat.They live in the free environment of Mongolia.
The goat has the most precious wool when the weather is extremely cold. This can drop to a temperature of -30 ° C.

How is Cashmere produced?
In spring, the nomads comb the winter coat of the goat by hand. The goats will be shorn in the spring. In the winter they create a good coat, and it goes off in the spring. When the wool is off, the hair will be stripped of pieces of wood and stones. Then the hair will be sorted by color. Before the yarn will be made, the hair is colored. The production of the clothes is in China where we have our own production location.

Animal welfare is very important to REPEAT. We only work with large, reputable wool and cashmere suppliers to ensure that the wool and cashmere are durable and humanly obtained. Our suppliers frequently visit the farms where they buy the wool and cashmere to ensure that our high standard of quality and animal welfare will be followed.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us."

I appreciate all the answers I get from companies, but consumers are not stupid - this simply wasn't enough for me. The company did not really answer my questions. I specified in my message that I'm asking about a 100% merino cardigan (merino wool is often from Australia or NZ). I also told that was interested in raw material sourcing, fairtrade practices and labor conditions.

The global huge demand for cashmere has resulted in overherding of cashmere goats in Mongolia. Cultivating cashmere goats in the Gobi desert in Mongolia is an ongoing ecological disaster - the goat herds damage the fragile ecosystem: they destroy the sparse vegetation that is needed to keep the sand in place, and as a result the desert is rapidly expanding every year. The loose sand clouds pollute the atmosphere and no, it's not just a local issue: the huge sand clouds cross the Pacific and worsen air quality in the US West Coast shock Microparticle air pollution has been shown to increase deaths - I found a study that said that up to 10% of deaths in Mongolia are attributable to air pollution (it affects us too, increasing the risk of heart and lung diseases).

The huge demand for cashmere is also connected with all kinds of shady practices among the fiber suppliers - in fiber analysis, a sweater labeled 100% cashmere contained a significant amount (over 10%) of other materials - regular wool, unidentifiable fibers and rabbit fur confused

Merino wool is not completely ecologically sound either (massive wool production may be associated with desertification Argentina. I guess that's where the 1990s bright, cheap and durable Benetton sweaters I wore for a decade came from sad Overall, wool is much more sustainable than cashmere. So if you can choose, buy wool, not cashmere.

ppeatfruit Wed 08-May-13 10:03:57

sleepdodgerThat's very interesting.i wonder as you're in the business if you know what the manufacturers put on their clothes to create the strong chemical\type smell that you get in some fashion shops? It makes my eyes stream.

ppeatfruit Wed 08-May-13 10:10:19

frugal i wonder if more vegetation could be grown to specifically stop desertification? If you think about it that dust happens when there's a drought in all the monocrop vast fields created for the effing machines; our world is in a state and it just seems that everything is down to the bottom line sad

FrugalFashionista Wed 08-May-13 10:42:20

Fruit formaldehyde is a common fabric finisher, especially common in no-iron stuff. Pungent smell.

The more I read the murkier apparel production seems... sad

I've lived in deserts and semi-deserts in the past and judging by the sand raining on my terrace, Central Italy is just a suburb of Sahara. Reversing desertification and reforestation is a complex process. You need to replant, but to do that you need water (in a desert), energy, labor and political will. In practice soil erosion is often irreversible. Mediterranean countries have lots of landscapes devastated by overgrazing (sheep and goat farming), Iceland (no trees!) is a post-ecocatastrophe landscape as well. Jared Diamond has written an excellent book (Collapse) on how ecological disasters have destroyed human cultures and communities in the past. Sobering reading.

Seeing huge soy monocultures in a semi-desert in Brazil put me off soy for the rest of my life. Zero biological diversity sad

DigWeedSow Wed 08-May-13 11:07:28

The factories are just the tip of the iceberg aren't they? I remember seeing a youtube video about a town in China where the main industry was the dying of textiles. All of the chemical waste from the dying process was pumped straight out to sea.

On a lighter note I have been looking for some basic vests and have always found Uniqlo to be of a good quality. On their site they have a whole section dedicated to CSR I haven't had chance to read through it all yet as there is a lot of info on there however it makes a nice change for a company to volunteer to information.

ppeatfruit Wed 08-May-13 11:10:24

Yes formaldehyde, its disgusting no wonder those clothes workers in the pic. were wearing masks!

Those were the words I was looking for "soil erosion" thanks frugal You'd need water to replant a desert so it would have to be done in the rainy season I suppose.

I do have soya but only organically, non gm and locally grown (in France we live between here and U.K.) also Alpro in Belgium are good producers of it (I hope).

It seems that humans have always depleted the world which is comforting and also depressing isn't it?

FrugalFashionista Wed 08-May-13 11:34:33

Despite all these awfulness (sorry if I've been piling it on - and there is lots more - cotton and leather are very serious environmental risks too) I'm optimistic and believe in resiliency and change, starting with small baby steps.

This may be naive on my part but I believe in knowledge and openness.
When we know better what is going on, we may take action and some things will change as a result.
grin

To me, these types of threads are a new phenomenom on S&B.
We used to just buy in bulk <sigh> and compare notes on lipsticks wink
Very impressed that so many people recently have started these questioning, different threads and also small and big changes in their lives... <inspired and motivated>

FrugalFashionista Wed 08-May-13 11:42:00

Apologize for substandard syntax - touchscreen isn't my medium...

ppeatfruit Wed 08-May-13 11:53:32

Talking about sand raining its doing that here; my car was covered in sand yesterday and it hardly rained, maybe it rained at night!

ppeatfruit Wed 08-May-13 11:54:32

I live in the centre westish not the south BTW!

FrugalFashionista Wed 08-May-13 11:57:58

Oh and got a long and thoughtful reply from MiH Jeans, will share it if anyone is interested but - bottom line, smaller companies seem to care, and as a customer I really respect that.

Companies are definitely listening and responding!
Ladies do join me in contacting them (I can share my letter template if you are interested)!

<taking off activist propeller hat and having some lunch>

EthicalDresser Wed 08-May-13 12:33:03

Like one of the posters above I also work in this area and have been so fascinated by this discussion thread that I've joined MN specially! Really good to know that people are interested (can feel a bit despairing sometimes when all retailers say customers are interested in is price).

It is really hard to find out what's ethical and what's not ethical, even for people like me who work in it and think about it a lot.

Just wanted to highlight the Ethical Fashion Forum www.ethicalfashionforum.com which you may not have heard about as it's industry rather than consumer facing but has heaps of interesting and useful info on both dedicated ethical fashion brands and mainstream brands.

Also for husbands/partners there's www.arthurandhenry.com - proper smart shirts.

FrugalFashionista Wed 08-May-13 13:36:46

Ethicaldresser welcome to MN and thanks for the link - it looks very interesting! <will read more later>
Very happy to hear that these issues are important to industry insiders! As consumers, more and more of us are waking up. There is definitely a slowly growing anti-fast fashion sentiment here.
I'd definitely prefer my daily wear without bloodstains smile

EthicalDresser Wed 08-May-13 14:05:24

Thanks for the welcome. Buy less, buy better definitely helps, though it can be a bit of an 'ouch' at the till at the time as we've all got so used to cheap things.

EthicalDresser Wed 08-May-13 14:06:09

Sorry for double posting, just wanted to add that of course price isn't necessarily an indicator of good working conditions mind you (as has been noted before on this thread)

ppeatfruit Thu 09-May-13 07:53:29

Yes welcome Ethical That Arthur and Henry site is lovely thanks grin I love the shirts myself! DH would definitely like them!

It's nice to know that there are people like you in fashion!!

FrenchRivieraMum Thu 09-May-13 16:40:07

Part of the problem is the consumer pressure that is put on brands to keep costs down, especially when the crisis in on – not that I agree with any unethical working conditions of course!
If you are looking for a brand that has a special ethical, fair trade and ecological policy and provides good value kid’s and women’s summer clothes look here : www.tortuedemer.com/content/12-ethique

FrugalFashionista Fri 10-May-13 07:49:00

There is change in the air ladies! Write the companies! Ask about the origin of your clothes when shopping!

I read that the death toll in Bangladesh has exceeded 800 sad

RivieraMum and Ethical, fantastic links, keep them coming. I really love some of the items made by these emerging companies: buying lovely and unique stuff like that seems much more luxurious than so-called luxury (nowadays produced almost without exception in dubious conditions).

Have been very busy with work and social life but will catch up on writing companies over the weekend. If you want to join, check the labels, go to the company website and use the customer feedback form to ask about the sourcing of their materials, labor conditions and whether they are committed to a living wage. I'm also encouraging them to add pages to their websites where they talk more about where, how and by whom their raw materials are produced and the clothes are manufactured.

FrugalFashionista Sat 11-May-13 07:26:29

The death toll is over 1000 now sad

It seems that citizens, customers and shareholders everywhere are taking action: the Avaaz petition has been signed by 875 000 people (but H&M and GAP still aren't onboard - your signature is needed!). There have been street demonstrations and letterwriting campains, but according to NY Times, companies still think that the protests are NGO-led, not consumer-led. This is why your private consumer feedback is needed (via Twitter, the company website, or at the till). Go to the till with clothes you'd like to buy, and if you don't get satisfactory answers to questions about their fiber country of origin, manufacturing country, commitment to living wage (minimum wage in Bangladesh is 24 GBP/month) and safe workplace, leave the clothes at the till and make a U turn.

I as a private consumer, I am thoroughly fed up with having blood on my t-shirt. Buying ethical clothes from niche companies can be a interim solution, but it will not change the big picture. I'm not a member of any NGO <yet> but I want the mass retailers to change - they will have to treat their supplies better and pay them more. It's also becoming increasingly obvious that company self-monitoring policies are not enough <shopping trips to Zara and H&M on hold>

If you are really committed, consider donating the price of your next t-shirt/ going-out-top /weekend clothes shopping spree / next pair of shoes to one of the many fair labor /consumer /anti-child labor organizations. Third parties are obviously needed to assess and report what is really going on and to help the victims of unethical sourcing practices. This work, of course, has a price tag too.

ppeatfruit Sat 11-May-13 07:53:54

As if the NGO's are not made up of consumers shock The companies are going to have problems [hopefully].

ZaraW Sat 11-May-13 08:17:16

Izzy Lane make beautiful wool items from rescued sheep expensive but worth it. I have a coat I have had for years and it's still going strong though I usually buy in the sales.

FrugalFashionista Sat 11-May-13 08:44:51

Zara I visited www.izzylane.com last week and they have some beautiful things, including cashmere raised in Britain (on sale!). Local British sheep subspecies are dying out sad as wool production has been largely outsourced, but they are still raising sheep and goats in the UK. So if you like cashmere and would like to wear with a good conscience, they are a great option!

I'm including a list of organizations that people interested in supporting ethical clothes production might want to research and support financially:

War on Want - petition to sign on the front page!
Labour Behind the Label
No Sweat - Send Your Label Back initiative!
Clean Clothes Campaign
Ethical Consumer
Rank a Brand

ppeatfruit Sat 11-May-13 09:30:07

Izzy Lane is lovely i was thinking it might be nice to buy the family a cashmere sweater each for Xmas!

ZaraW Sat 11-May-13 13:39:58

FrugalFashionista I just love my coat knowing that it comes from a happy place. It's also a bit different have had loads of compliments on it.

Cashmere jumpers would be a lovely gift.

I am waiting for this scarf to go on sale

http://izzylane.bigcartel.com/product/pompom-wrap-magenta

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