What to do when your favourite brand isn’t ‘ethical’

If you're someone who knows what you like and doesn't see the need to make a switch, that's actually great. You have opportunity to help shift how a brand communicates their efforts towards a more ethical and sustainable outcome. Here's how.

Send some simple emails and let brands know what you think

Image: via Unsplash

There’s nothing quite like knowing who made the shirt on your back, but there are bound to be items in your wardrobe that raise questions. Your t-shirt might note down a country on the inside tag, like “made in China”, but what does that actually mean? If you visit the t-shirt brand’s website, do they talk about their makers? Do they share information about their relationship with them?

Someone recently told me they made the switch from one brand of footwear to another, wanting to support organic, fair-trade sneakers in comparison to their counterpart who doesn’t tick any of these boxes. As it turned out, they much preferred the shoes that ‘weren’t ethical’ and were faced with a moral dilemma—they asked me, “what do I do if the brand I love isn’t ethical? I want to support those that are, but if I know this brand’s product is what fits me and lasts a long time, I don’t want to forego that.”

EASY.

You know you’re allowed to contact the brands you love and wear, right?! You have the power, in a really simple email, to tell them you want to know more about how they make their products. If a brand isn’t sharing this information yet, encourage them to do so! The more we all speak up for what we would like to see from brands and businesses, the more likely they are to make changes and show up for the cause.

I’m regularly emailing brands to find out more information about how, where and who make what they sell, so I thought I would share some example scenarios and emails that you’re more than welcome to copy and send across to [insert your favourite brand]! Simply navigate to a brand’s contact page on their website, find an email address to copy paste or fill in their contact form.

When you are a regular or previous customer

If you’ve been rocking a pair of jeans for a while and don’t want to sway from the brand—because hey, the perfect fitting pair of jeans can be a fickle thing—here’s what you can send them to find out what they’re doing on an ethical and sustainable front.

“Hi there,
I love [insert brand name here] and have been a customer of yours for a while, but I am unable to find any information in regards to how and where you manufacture your [insert item description, e.g. clothes, shoes, jewellery, denim, etc]. I’d love to know more about this aspect of your label so I can confidently make a purchase knowing your makers receive a living wage and work in a safe environment.
I am also very passionate about the environmental footprint of fashion and how brands are working to decrease this in any way they can. Are you able to provide any information in regards to these points?
I’d love to hear from you!
Regards,
[your name]

When you have discovered a new brand and want to know more before purchasing

We all know the online world is a neverending rabbit hole of potential purchases, and I am not exempt from finding some lust-worthy items that tempt me into a purchase. If I am seriously considering making a purchase from a brand that doesn’t talk about how, where and who make their products, they can most certainly expect an email from me addressing the following thoughts.

“Hi there,
I have just come across your brand and [insert product, e.g. ‘your uber cool shoes’], but I am unable to find any information in regards to how and where you manufacture. I’d love to know more about this aspect of your label so I can confidently make a purchase knowing your makers receive a living wage and work in a safe environment.
I am also very passionate about the environmental footprint of fashion and how brands are working to decrease this in any way they can. Are you able to provide any information and insights in regards to these points?
I’d love to hear from you!
Cheers,
[your name]

When you visit a multi-brand brick & mortar store

When I discover a new brand in a brick and mortar store and I’m considering a purchase, I often ask the store staff for more information about the brand and the make. If for some reason they aren’t sure or they aren’t available to chat (or maybe you’re too shy! That’s okay!), below is an email I have sent to a local store to find out more information about a sneaker brand they stock, for example.

“Hi!
I recently visited your [insert location, e.g. Brunswick, Melbourne] store and love everything you curate within your range of stock!
I’m wondering if you have any extra information in regards to [insert brand]—do you know where they manufacture and how they go about selecting fabrics and materials? What was it that drove you to stock them in your store in particular?
It would be great to hear more about this brand from your perspective as well as any plans you may have to introduce more conscious labels into your store, as I’d like to be reassured they are producing as ethically and sustainably as possible before purchasing.
Really hope to hear from you!
Regards,
[your name]

These types of inquiries can really gear a brand or store to think about and question their own stance on the stories behind their clothes, how they can improve their communication, and, better yet, improve their supply chain altogether. By asking questions and communicating what is important to you, we can all prompt change in the way things are made for the better—and the more of us who send messages, the faster it might happen.

Profile picture of Samee Lapham, founder of The Kind Guide
Author

Samee Lapham

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