Eco-friendly or vegan : what is an ethical brand ?

There are more and more fashion brands that claim to be ethical, committed, responsible or even green. The creation of some and the efforts of others are commendable. Some are only following the trend and finding an easy way to make money. They rely on the credulity of potential buyers. How can we recognize an ethical brand ?

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How to recognize a ethical brand ?

We can classify these brands into two large groups. On one side we have those born ethical. They are built around fundamental values ​​and apply them on a daily basis (this is the case of Minuit Sur Terre) . On the other side, we have those which, feeling the wind turn, went green. This is to give themselves a good conscience. They continue to sell more and more (like all the fast fashion brands that pull out of their hats an eco-designed collection…).

On the occasion of Fashion Revolution Week, let’s ask ourselves about how we consume fashion and dress everyday ! We are delivering OUR vision of an ethical brand. 🙂

Beware of greenwashing

For a regular eye, it’s easy to recognize greenwashing when it’s present. But what exactly is it? Greenwashing is when brands communicate by using the ecological argument to sell more. They give themselves an eco-friendly image far from reality. Their real commitments do not follow there marketing arguments.

Why pretend being green ?

Many fast fashion brands are now using ecological arguments by releasing “ethical” collections. These ones only represent a very small part of their overall production and have only the name behind them. Making huge quantities of clothes, in deplorable working conditions on the other side of the world but in recycled material does not make an ethical range. These brands push for consumption by making the consumer feel guilty.

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Another common practice is to highlight a place of manufacture in Europe when it concerns only a tiny part of production to mislead the consumer. The brands never really specifying where the products are made. Under the pretext of French conception ”, which can mean anything and nothing at the same time, they keep on selling more and more products.

Transparency is the key element

For us, transparency in the major. The very principle of greenwashing is to mislead customers by highlighting vague values ​​and no concrete facts. On the contrary, being transparent means accepting your imperfections. It means not hiding them. That way you give the consumer the choice to decide whether or not the brand meets his expectations.

Local, but not organic ? Ethical, but made far from Europe ? Vegan, but synthetic or non-recycled ? To learn about its contradictions is already to take a big step towards ethics by not lying to push the purchase.

How to be transparent ?

Transparency on materials and manufacturing conditions is essential, but in our opinion, it also relates to the prices charged. Some brands charge high prices. This suggests that the items sold are of a certain quality or that their manufacture is expensive. When this is not the case, they only benefit from their image and the power of making customers pay the higher price.

Being transparent about its costs means letting clients know the amount of all stages of product creation. It concerns materials, manufacturing, packaging, transport, logistics, communication, etc. To find out more about the prices charged by Minuit sur Terre, go to our dedicated page ! 🙂

 Vestiaire éthique

Take into account the approach in its entirety

Choosing a brand for its ethics means studying its approach in its entirety and demonstrating logic. Sticking to only one point can be misleading. Therefore it causes us to make questionable consumer choices (although of course no one is perfect and no option is totally perfect).

Are ethical brands also vegan ?

A vegan brand is not necessarily ethical. The absence of animal products does not in any way guarantee a manufacturing site where the conditions of the workers are respected or the use of eco-friendly material. Therefore, a vegan label does not certify that the product is respectful of people and the environment.

Don’t be fooled

The same is true for articles made from recycled and / or organic materials. An organic cotton t-shirt sold for 10 euros by a fast fashion giant was surely made in deplorable conditions for workers. It may be Oeko-Tex certified and will have a less harmful effect on your health and water pollution than a synthetic t-shirt sold at the same price, but what impact will it have on people who participated in its conception?

Likewise, a pair of leather shoes made in France will certainly have enhanced French know-how in leather goods. But, it will have caused great animal suffering. Especially if the leather is imported from countries which do not comply with any regulations, like Bangladesh. What about its impact on the environment and the health of workers ? Its tanning will have polluted local natural resources and poisoned the workers.

Make good decisions

Thinking globally when it comes to choosing a product is also thinking about the criteria that motivate our choices and the concessions that we are ready to make. What is most important to us ? What are our financial means ? How durable is the product ? There are no perfectly ethical products : our consumption will always have an impact on the world around us.

It is up to us to decide which world we want to vote for with our wallet.

The key points to identify a truly ethical and respectful brand

Look for guarantees

  • Read the composition of the products. It must be clear and precise and provide you with real information on the materials used.

For example, if a product sheet speaks of “eco-responsible material” or “eco-nappa” without ever really specifying its composition, are we sure that this material is really ethical?

Some points to check: Are the materials from animals ? Does the item include recycled materials ? Are the materials natural (linen, hemp, organic cotton) ? Do the materials have a high impact on the environment (non-organic cotton, washed jeans, leather)?

  • Check if the brand is labeled. Certifications guarantee the reliability of the brand on certain points :

PETA Approved Vegan guarantees the absence of animal materials in the product.

Oeko Tex guarantees that the materials do not present a health hazard.

GOTS (Global Organic textile Standard) guarantees the biological origin of the fibers.

European Ecolabel guarantees respect for fundamental rights at work and the limited use of harmful substances in textile fibers.

However, these labels are not free and represent a certain cost for companies. Some small ethical brands are not labeled simply because they do not have the means. But that does not prevent their products meet the requirements of these labels.

Think about costs

  • Pay attention to the prices. A brand whose products are constantly on promotion indicates straight away an inflated initial price to allow these permanent reductions. Adopting “fair prices” is subjective. It depends above all on the margin that a company wishes to make on a product.
  • Verify the place of production. Made in China does not systematically mean catastrophic working conditions. But the carbon impact due to transport from Asia is a disaster. Especially if the materials are of European origin.

Think about the brand’s values

  • Pay attention to the quality of customer service. For us, the quality of a brand also depends on the attention it pays to its customers.
  • Ensure yourself that the brand supports the second life of its products. Does it deal with the resale of its products or their recycling ? The impact of a product does not stop after it has been marketed, but continues throughout its life. Minuit sur Terre has a project in progress concerning the second life of its products. Follow us on social networks or via our newsletter to be kept informed… This should happen by this summer! 🙂
  • How many collections does the brand release evey year year ? Today, fast-fashion brands market new items every week and encourage us to overconsume.
  • Does the brand partner with associations ? Ethics can also go through this : giving regularly to community projects allows a company to leave a more positive imprint on the world around it.

To learn more about the environmental and social impacts of fashion, watch the awesome documentary The True Cost, available on Netflix.