Why is it so hard to shop ethically?

June 15, 2016
Why is it so hard to shop ethicallyIf you read my post on creating a more sustainable wardrobe last week, you may think about changing the way you shop and trying to find more ethical brands. I’ve spoken a lot about how I want to change the way I shop for fashion, avoiding fast fashion and shopping more ethically and sustainably. But for some reason, it is so hard!!

First of all, you have to work out exactly what ethical fashion is. If you look the word ethical up in a dictionary it will say it is adjective ‘pertaining to or dealing with morals or the principles of morality; pertaining to right and wrong in conduct’. Which is pretty open to interpretation. Morals and ethics will mean different things to different people. For example, my understanding of ethical fashion is about people, I want to know the people who made my clothes have been treated fairly and paid a living wage. To someone else, it could be more focused on environmental issues and the use of sustainable materials or it could be about ensuring there are no animal products (leather or suede) used in making clothes. This difficulty in defining ethical fashion just adds to the difficulty we have when it comes to shopping for ethical and sustainable fashion. How do you find the brands you should be buying from?

The lack of a clear definition makes shopping for ethical fashion even harder for the average consumer

For most things in life, a simple Google search is enough to bring results. But just try Googling sustainable fashion. You’ll get around 20 million results, but the first few pages are all articles about why you should buy sustainable fashion. Not much help when you want to know where to buy sustainable fashion. So let’s try googling sustainable fashion brands and you still don’t get any brands listed on the first page (just more articles) and who has time to go beyond the first page of results. You have to really dig to find brands which specialise in sustainable and ethical fashion, and even then most are based overseas which means massive delivery charges. Also, I don’t know about you but I’m not that confident about ordering from websites/brands I’ve never heard of.
Judging by the massive amount of articles online about why we should all be shopping for sustainable and ethical fashion it should be the easiest thing in the world to find. Surely I should be able to find sustainable and ethical clothing in my local high street. Yes, there are a few well-known brands such as Bora and People Tree but it’s just not mainstream enough. I should be able to walk into any store (including the low-cost retailers) and know that whatever I purchase is sustainable and the people involved in making it was paid fairly. But unfortunately we all know that is still a long way off, but why does it have to be so difficult in the meantime. Yes, there are a few useful websites which rate retailers on how ethical they are (again this is open to interpretation), such as Positive LuxurySustainable Fashion Directory and Ethical Consumer but who has the time to check every brand out before purchasing. These websites along with blogs provide really useful information on brands and are very valuable if you are interested in the topic and like everything in life if you’re interested and have the time to research you will find ethical brands to shop from.
But many of us, love our well known high street names and want to shop from them. Yes, some of these brands have made a good start in becoming more ethical. Take the likes of ASOS and H&M which do have smaller ethical and eco ranges, but what about the rest of the stock. If I buy something from H&M’s eco range I’m still buying from H&M which we all know doesn’t have a great reputation for ethical fashion. Why is it just a small selection which is sustainable and ethical, surely if these brands can do it with some, they can do it with everything? I just want to make a purchase knowing everyone in the supply chain has been treated fairly – is that too much to ask?
Why is it so hard to shop ethically?

2 responses to “Why is it so hard to shop ethically?”

  1. BYEM says:

    It's so frustrating and hard to keep track of this! One of the reasons we founded BYEM was exactly because of this lack of transparency that bigger brands often lack and because we want to know that everyone has been treated fairly from start to finish. Great article!

    Conscious journal @ http://www.epitomeofnow.byem.com
    Scandinavian casual chic slow fashion @ http://www.byem.com

  2. Adri Lately says:

    It's been something I've been questioning too! The whole fast fashion thing has spun a vicious cycle of buying so much and then tossing so much, but that repeats like 5 times. I think right now it seems that shopping ethically means shopping online. Either way, great post!
    xo Adri

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