It can feel overwhelming and difficult to determine whether clothing was made under ethical conditions or not. Today I want to share with you a few tips that I use to help me determine this, and hopefully it can help you change the way you shop.
How to Determine if Clothing was Made Ethically
Here are a few tips to help you determine whether or not an item of clothing was made under ethical conditions, so that you can make more informed decisions when deciding whether to purchase an item of clothing.
1. Where Was the Item Made?
Items made in developed countries, like Canada or European countries such as Portugal, Italy, and Germany are more likely to be ethically sourced because these countries are more wealthy and can afford to pay their workers more.
This isn’t always the case. For example, Los Angeles still holds many sweatshops, and author Elizabeth Cline says in her book Overdressed, “The factories I went to in Bangladesh and China were indeed cleaner, more modern, and more closely followed fire and safety codes that the ones I saw in Los Angeles."
Items made in developing countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and China are most likely produced under unfair working conditions. So much of our clothing is made in these countries because they can be made so cheaply by workers who often do not know what their human rights are.
photo by Mate the Label
2. Check the Minimum Wage of the Sourcing Country
Calculate the wages of the people who make your clothing, by looking at the “made in” label and then do a google search for that country’s minimum wage. However, be aware that most sweatshops will actually pay the minimum wage of that country, but the minimum wage is much to low to live off of. For example, the minimum wage in Bangladesh is 5,300 taka a month (about $82 CAD), but the living wage is 16,460 taka ($257 CAD).
3. Check the Price Tag
Does it sound too good to be true? It probably is. The price paid for sourcing material, manufacturing, transportation, etc. is going to be well over $10 or $20.
4. Which Store is Selling the Item?
Is the clothing being sold by a fast fashion retailer who release new clothing every month? If it is found at a place like this, then it is unlikely that the item was made ethically since these stores mass produce clothing to be on racks quickly. It also has to be produced as cheaply as possible so that it can be presented to consumers at a low price.
photo by H&M
5. Check the Good on You app
This app has helped me so much in discovering brands that I thought were ethical, but do not actually trace their supply chain or provide information about labour conditions. This suggests that the brand has something to hide, and cannot be regarded as ethical.
The reality is, if brands produce their clothing ethically there is no reason why they wouldn’t state this on the clothing tag or on their website. Producing clothes ethically sets a brand apart from others, and presents a positive message to the public.
The ability to determine whether or not an item was ethically made will take time and practice. Don't get discouraged if you do your research and intend to buy ethically, only to discover that the brand you bought from does not have ethical practices.
Brands are always trying to seem more ethical and sustainable than they really are. Check out our post on How to Avoid Getting Greenwashed so that this doesn't happen to you.