I don’t know how much international traction it has received, but today in New Zealand, Tearfund published its Ethical Fashion Guide 2017. It’s great. It rates New Zealand fashion retailers on the ethical practices in their supply chains to give consumers a chance to vote with their wallets and support brands that take things like human rights seriously over those that don’t. But whilst I am fully supportive of this guide, and of ethical fashion in general, despite looking around online, I can’t find an equivalent for interiors stores and products. WTF?
Don’t get me wrong, there are snippets here and there online about ethical interiors. I published a post last week on ethical interiors stores in the UK, and there are a smattering of one-off articles and blog-posts on shopping for ethical interiors. But where is the definitive guide to help us wade through the maze of interior products and shops on the high street? If exploitation and poor working conditions are still rife in textile production for fashion, you can bet it’s just as dodgy when those fabrics are turned into cushions, throws and rugs. And I think we deserve the right to know, and be told, more. Don’t you?
The rating system in the ethical fashion guide assesses companies in the following areas:
Worker Empowerment – Does the company pay a living wage, promote unions, use collective bargaining agreements and have grievance mechanisms?
Auditing – Does the company audit their suppliers’ factories, conduct unannounced visits and worker interviews, and publicise audit reports?
Knowing suppliers – To what degree does the brand trace its supply chain, monitor subcontracting, and how transparent is it?
Policies – Does the brand have a code of conduct that governs human rights standards in their supply chain?
It doesn’t seem like much to ask of the companies we spend our hard-earned money on does it?
Perhaps most fundamentally, this kind of guide seems to make a difference. Tearfund have found that since it started publishing its ethical fashion report in Australia in 2013 (in the wake of the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed 1134 garment workers) companies have responded positively by reducing exploitation in their supply chains. Win!
The report’s authors are aiming to offer a practical tool to help in reducing worker exploitation and alleviating poverty within the Asia-Pacific region.
“Too many garment factory workers in the developing world work long hours in oppressive conditions to make the clothes we wear.
“The low pay they receive traps them and their families in a cycle of poverty, and that’s quite frankly unacceptable.”
This statement applies at the fabric production level too, which is why it’s key that companies start taking these kind of issues more seriously at all levels in their supply chains. Whether its skirts or cushions, I certainly want to know more about what I buy to ensure that someone hasn’t been exploited during the process.
I don’t consider that the majority of our high street interiors stores are doing enough to inform us about their textile and furniture supply chains. That’s one of the reasons I’ve changed the focus of this blog to showcase those enterprises working directly with communities around the world to make beautiful, contemporary products with complete transparency and a socially responsible focus. There shouldn’t be a trade-off between ethics and aesthetics, and the brands I feature illustrate this.
New Zealand ethical interiors brand, Etico, recently published their own version of the Trainspotting monologue to outline their commitment to ethics and it’s a motto that I’m going to be putting into practice from now on. It’s how shopping should be!
“Choose Ethical. Choose fair pay. Choose creating opportunities. Choose empowerment.
Choose preserving traditional skills, choose handmade, cultural preservation, education and social development.
Choose non-discrimination, equality, and respect. Choose not to condone child labour. Choose safe working environments. Choose justice.
Choose sustainability and better environmental practices. Choose to fill your home with things that are made to last, from natural materials, using traditional methods. Choose timeless design and not media promoted ‘on trend’ designs that will be out of fashion in a year. Choose future heirlooms.
Choose not to buy cheap mass produced imports that will eventually end up in our landfills. Choose to be eclectic, and individual, and well made items that you will love forever.
Choose our future.
Can I get a ‘hell yeah”?
How much do you feel you know about ethical interiors? More work to be done by high street brands or am I missing a magic bullet guide out there on the interweb? Let me know in the comments below.
Happy travels, and shopping