News from the Natural World: 80% of facts about ethical clothing are false (including this one).
Fashion has long been an industry plagued by “greenwashing”. This phrase was coined in the 1980s by environmentalist Jay Westerveld to describe companies which grossly overstate the environmental or ethical benefits of their products and services. The fashion industry has taken to it like a human to a dollar bill. They have obfuscated and made the literature of ethics and sustainability notoriously hard to navigate. Just because a brand instigates a better workers’ code, doesn’t mean that they’re not polluting by the bucketload, and vice versa. Meanwhile, workers’ rights and environmental impact often get conflated under the same umbrella of sustainability. While the two can be interlinked, it’s important to remember that workers’ rights and environmental sustainability are separate things.
The quagmire of ethical fashion has descended to such depravity that no one is very sure of the reality anymore. In fact a 2017 Dispatches investigation found garment workers making Boohoo products in the UK earned only £3 an hour. Well below the legal minimum wage. It’s hard to see that much compassion or sustainability being extended to the workers making Boohoo’s products. But the main reason brands are able to be vague about their environmental and social commitments is because of the lack of nuance and public education surrounding words like “ethical” and “sustainable”.
80% of Facts About Ethical Clothing Are False
We managed to secure access behind closed doors and also canvassed the entire fashion industry. We found out that every single fact about ethical fashion was completely false. In fact, what started as a movement to build accountability into an unquestionably unethical and cruel fashion industry has turned into a kind of whirlwind of misguided individual ethics. Ethical fashion has always been, at a basic level, classist. In that it inherently excludes a portion of the population due to a lack of access, spare time, and income to support higher priced ethical purchases.
Alongside this we discovered that consumers will believe almost anything brands tell them. Underpants made from Rhinos – 85% ethical. T-Shirts made from the souls of small children -90% ethical. It’s all rather irrelevant really. It turns out that western humans will buy something because they want to not because they think its ethical.
What’s the easiest way to buy something ethical? Buy second hand.
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