Easy Steps Towards Fashion Without Harm

It is easy to pretend that our personal shopping habits don’t having a negative impact on the world around us.  Living in a green and bountiful corner of the world away from mass-production, we lack direct visibility of where our fashion has come from, and the damaged it has caused to people, the environment and animals before it reached us.  But we need to do better.  So how can we find out what goes on behind closed (manufacturers) doors so that we can make more informed decisions?

The Good On You App
A project by Ethical Consumers Australia, the Good On You App (GOY) available for free on iPhone and Android rates more than 1,000 clothing, footwear and accessory brands on labour rights, the environment and animal protection. Reviewing information sourced from NGOs and certifications schemes like GOTS Organic, Fair Trade and more, it summarises the current findings into quick and easy to digest information.

Just 5 minutes spent on this app reviewing the chain stores located in my local regional CBD revealed that fashion items easily purchased in my area are indeed having a negative impact. 

Here is what I found
The two major retailers are rated as ‘Not Good Enough’. The first store mostly due to a lack of transparency around their environmental policies. The other appears to be doing slightly better, developing an energy efficiency program across its stores to reduce their environmental footprint; and under its parent company, is a signatory to the Australian Packing Covenant which aims to increase recycled materials in packing.   Both had a ‘Good’ labour rating as signatories to the Bangladesh Fire & Safety Accord, with the latter again edging out the first with additional measures taken including the disclosure of its Bangladshi suppliers list being praised by Oxfam.  When examined for animal welfare impact, both chains are rated as ‘Mixed’, with the banning of fur and angora, but using unspecified sources of leather and wool.

3 smaller clothing retail chain stores were also rated as ‘Not Good Enough’ seemingly again due to a lack of information related to their environmental practices and work still to be done around labour and animal rights.  2 others, who are both owned by the same parent company, were surprisingly rated differently.  While both need to improve their environmental transparency and labour practices, one does not use any animal by products, opting for synthetic fibres (better for the animals, not better for the environment) and has been rated overall as ‘It’s a Start’. The other received a ‘Not Good Enough’ rating.  A 6th clothing retail store had not yet been rated by the GOY app.

Simple things you can do now
For people like me living regionally, I know there is an added layer of complexity around these issues. Personally, I want to shop locally both for convenience and to keep local people employed, but my options are limited.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t take action to affect change for the better. Here are some things you can do now:

  1. Search your favourite brands and learn about their rating on the GOY app.
  2. Use the GOY app feature ‘Your Voice’ to contact a brand and give them your feedback or urge them to do better.
  3. If your favourite brand isn’t rated, use the GOY app to request that they are.
  4. Find alternative brands via the GOY app who perform better.
  5. Read the articles available on the GOY app for even more helpful information.
  6. Write a letter to the brand or parent company explaining your concerns and requesting they become more transparent and improve practices.
  7. Buy second hand clothing only.  If you love a brand but they are not meeting your standards, buy it second hand. This is a fantastic way of preventing clothing from going into landfill, saving money, and not directly supporting the brand until it improves.
  8. Host a clothes swap with your friends.
  9. Shop from local makers, buy handmade.
  10. Buy less and save your money (saving the best tip for last!).

See more at goodonyou.org.au/app
All information in this article about brands sourced directly from the Good On You app on the date of publication.

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