Ever since I made the decision to be a more socially responsible, conscious consumer, shopping has admittedly been a lot harder. Ethical fashion brands are wonderful but still fairly inaccessible- most have a much higher price tag (since they are paying more for their fairly sourced textiles and living wages), and many of them are mostly only available online. So when you need to find something quick for a last minute event, it can be quite tricky. Luckily, a few major fashion brands have been cleared as socially responsible, so you can shop with a conscious a little easier!
Thanks to Remake, I discovered that Baptist World Aid Australia, an international aid organization, launched a comprehensive study of over 87 companies, and ranked them via an A-F grading scale based on the following categories: fair living wages, working towards a transparent supply chain, encouraging worker empowerment, obtainment of certifications and industry collaborations to improve supply chain and working conditions, establishing company policies, and auditing and supplier relationships. While no company is perfect and there are still some large improvements to make, this study shows an optimistic look at the progress companies are making to be more responsible.
Below are some of the best brands that made the cut with A grades, and honorable mentions. They might pleasantly surprise you!
1. ADIDAS Group (Adidas, Reebok, Taylormade) Grade: A
- The Adidas Group has shared a transparent list of all suppliers and factories, made available to the public.
- They have also rolled out a worker-manager communication project so that workers can send an SMS to a hotline to raise alarm if they think their rights are being compromised.
- They use innovative technology to minimize the harmful effects of dyeing on the environment.
2. Inditex Group (ZARA, Bershka, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti) Grade: A
- As a whole, Inditex has made sure to assure fair living wages as a pillar of their company. They have worked with the Ethical Trading Initiative to increase wages for workers in their supply chain. Inditex was part of the effort to pressure the Cambodian government to increase living wages.
- They have also formed a partnership with Better Cotton Initiative to save water and to decrease the use of pesticides.
- BEWARE, however: Zara and Inditex brands are still fast fashion, which means the company makes billions of units- it doesn't change the fact that the fast fashion business model is still wasteful. If you choose to buy Zara, make sure you choose items that you can commit to wearing at least 30 times so that you can keep it longer and not dispose of it wastefully.
3. Patagonia Grade: A-
- If you're looking for fitness or outdoor gear, Patagonia will be one of your most socially responsible choices. The company has certified factories, and have grown its selection of fair trade items.
- The company has also worked with bluesign technologies to ensure that they reduce waste, and manage chemicals and dyes in the production process.
- However, it is still not 100 percent sure if the brand can trace its entire supply chain.
Honorable Mention: Levi's Grade: C+
- Ok, so Levi's didn't get such a wonderful grade. BUT they still deserve an honorable mention because the company has a comprehensive code of conduct that sets the standard in the industry. As a major brand, they are a pioneer in social and environmental responsibility. Their code of conduct establishes a firm foundation for the company to build an effective monitoring system.
- Denim also requires tons of water to make- Levi's has made an effort to reduce the amount of water used in production by developing innovative techniques.
- However, they have not shared their efforts in implementing a living wage to their workers.
Ok...so what about H&M?
H&M actually got a pretty decent grade on this assessment, a B+. But while H&M is striving to push a more socially responsible agenda, their business model of mega-fast fashion is unsustainable. Check out the video below via Project Just to see why, and head on to their website to read more.
Bonus: Below is an infographic from Remake to give you an AT-A-GLANCE perspective on the best and worst ethical fashion brands: