Have you ever been confused about whether or not a brand is ethical? Or maybe you’ve fallen for greenwashing tactics like the rest of us have at some point. Fortunately, ethical brands do exist, even here in Canada.
What Makes a Brand Ethical?
Claiming to be ethical is one thing - but actually putting these claims into practice is the mark of a brand who truly cares about making the world a better place. Being ethical essentially means being moral, and genuinely caring about the treatment of people, animals, and the planet. Here are a few key factors that go into making a brand ethical.
1. Treatment of workers
At the forefront of an ethical brand is the quality with which they treat their workers in every stage of the supply chain, from harvesters to manufacturers.
Ethical brands ensure that the people making their clothes are treated respectfully and paid fairly. This doesn’t just mean paying workers a minimum wage, but a living wage. They treat their workers as equals, who have valuable lives and opinions.
“Transparency” in the fashion industry refers to the public disclosing of information about a brand’s supply chain, their business practices, and their impact on workers, communities, and the environment.
Since an ethical brand should have nothing to hide, they will have no problem fully disclosing all the details of the making of their clothes, including who makes them and where. When brands are truly ethical, they value honesty and want their business to align with customers who share their beliefs.
Being ethical also means being mindful of the effects that the clothing industry has on our planet.
Although ethical brands are more likely to focus on social issues, they will also typically be looking for ways to implement eco-friendly materials, and avoid mass production. They tend to promote slow fashion and conscious consumerism rather than fueling the problem of overconsumption.
4. Animals Rights
Ethical brands will usually stay away from using animal products in their products, and will never test their products on animals.
5 Ethical Canadian Clothing Brands
Kotn makes high-quality basics from organic Egyptian cotton. Their minimalist designs are meant to be timeless, so that you can continue to wear the items regardless of what’s currently in style. They are a certified B Corporation, and create their clothing using non-toxic dyes and ship their orders in plastic-free packaging.
Kotn has a strong focus on building community with the people involved in the making of their clothes, and contributing to their needs in any ways they can. One example of this is that Kotn donates a portion of their proceeds to fund and build primary schools in the Nile Delta region of Egypt, where there is an extreme lack of accessibility to education.
2. Good for Sunday
Good for Sunday is a new brand, established in 2020, and based in Toronto. All of their clothing is made in Canada in ethical factories.
Even though it would be cheaper to create the clothing outside of Canada, Good for Sunday values local manufacturing because it reduces their carbon footprint, and they are able to ensure that their workers are fairly paid and treated with the utmost respect.
Their clothing is made to last, using a variety of high-quality, sustainable materials including organic cotton, tencel, and linen. All of their orders are shipped in compostable mailers to avoid plastic waste.
3. Kindly the Label
Kindly the Label makes organic clothing for women and children with the intention of producing slowly and thoughtfully.
Kindly products are designed in Manitoba, and made by a small group of artisans in China. Their manufacturing companies are all certified SEDEX, a membership organization dedicated to improving working conditions in global supply chains. Their modern basics will help you create the capsule wardrobe of your dreams.
TenTree is best known for their environmental achievements of planting ten trees for every item purchased. Their products are designed in Canada and made in ethical factories around the world, which are frequently audited to ensure safe working conditions. TenTree states on their website that their workers are paid a living wage, and are given proper rest days and insurance coverage.
TenTree is a certified B Corporation who values transparency, which is displayed by the amount of information they provide on their website, even providing a public copy of their Code of Conduct.
Franc is a small Canadian brand which was formed in an effort to change the rules of fashion to be more conscious and ethical. All of their fabric is custom knit and dyed (with non-toxic dyes) in two small Toronto factories, and shipped in compostable mailers.
Franc keeps their prices fairly low by selling directly to the consumer, exclusively online. Any items that they cannot sell, they donate to YWCA Toronto.
How to Quickly Tell of a Brand is Ethical
In most cases, it is not enough to simply take a brand at their word when they claim to be ethical. Sometimes, it’s necessary for us to take matters into our own hands by researching these brands in order to determine how ethical they really are.
Here are a few things to look out for when determining whether or not a brand is ethical:
Look to see if they have published a transparency index or a code of conduct on their website.
Look for ethical certifications, including B Corp, Fairtrade International, and PETA (guarantee against animal testing).
Check the Good on You app or website. They do the research for you and rate each brand based on Environment, Labour, and Animals.
Where was the clothing made? If it was made in a high risk country for labour abuse, this may be cause for concern. In this case, look for the above.
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