Why Transparency Isn’t the Solution to Being a More Ethical & Sustainable Fashion Industry
By Jessica Kelly, Founder & CEO, THR3EFOLD
Does publishing your factories make you more sustainable? The short answer is no. Listing your factories does not make you more ethical or more sustainable, it simply makes you more transparent. Your factories could be great or they could only be mediocre (I hope not worse) but that doesn’t mean they are better than other fashion brands who choose not to list their factories openly.
Transparency Does Not Equal Ethics & Sustainability
I’ve had many conversations with leaders at various designer luxury brands in New York City over the years and many have shared they do not list their factories as a precaution to protect their intellectual property from being knocked off or stolen by anyone else. I’m not saying this is a reasonable fear or not, I’m simply pointing out that the lack of transparency from a brand could have many reasons that are in no way related to the conditions at which their factories run.
Where Transparency is Now
In this age of information, we are rarely unable to find the answer to a question we have. However, a large exception seems to be overseas factories. As a whole, factories abroad typically are unsearchable, have awful websites, or no websites at all. Last week, Primark published all of their global factories on their website in a push to enhance their ethical supply chain. I took a look, as this is pretty big news from the world of fast fashion in an effort to make improvements. Primark has a beautiful clickable map detailing the names and locations of all of their factories, as well as the number of employees and the demographic breakdown of male to female. However, no listing indicates the standard to which the factory runs. And a quick Google search of a few randomly selected factories of theirs produced no web results whatsoever.
Where Transparency Needs to Go
Herein lies the problem, there is a large disconnect between the fashion industry and its consumers. Even if a brand lists all their factories and the ethical and environmental certifications they hold, only a minute percentage of consumers will be able to understand that an SA8000 certified factory means they are producing their clothes at the highest standard in the industry. Many industry insiders don’t even know this. The fashion industry as a whole needs to collectively get behind a universal labeling system that details more than just the origin of production but also the impact level at which it was created.
This is a problem we are hoping to solve at THR3EFOLD. We connect brands with ethically certified factories around the world in an effort to make it easier to find a factory you can trust. To help consumers we work to label all products made through our connections with an Ethically Made In _____ component to the tag that allows any customer to quickly understand that they can trust how it was made, even if they don’t get all the nitty gritty details. We have a vision for the entire fashion industry to be ethically made and are working hard to make that happen. Email us to learn more and join the movement.
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