But what is meant by ethical manufacturing? Ethical and sustainable manufacturing is a comprehensive approach emphasising good health and conditions of all those involved in the production line. It takes into account that a safe working place and environmentally-friendly processes. In short, products are created in a responsible manner by protecting the workers, minimising negative impact on the environment and conserving energy and resources. All that and still earning profits, after all that is the goal of any business.
In a continuously evolving world, the clothing industry has been a leading front to minimise resource degradation. Creative new innovations are discovered each day in terms of fabric choices and re-usability of clothes. Sustainable options like human-made cellulose fibres and plant-sourced fibres are increasingly becoming popular choices for manufacturers and even among the masses. These revolutionary materials are being developed and constantly upgraded to suit the needs of people- these materials are becoming so as to be affordable for all, fashioned to be on-trend and comfortable and conducting fair-trade. Attention is also paid to reducing the amount of water and resources used in producing clothing.
How is Fashion Ethical?
Carrying out an ethical supply-chain requires undertaking a lot of concerning issues. Prioritising the workers is core to this sentiment- ensuring they get appropriate pay, decent working hours and sanitary conditions are top on the list. Being an “ethical business” is not just to cover the legalised basics. Let’s be real. Sanitation, proper wage, etc are legalised regulations any company-owner is compelled to provide, but the reality is often much different. To call yourself ethically operational would mean to go above these general worker-laws and genuinely care for all those who contribute to running all the cogs in the successful machine, that is a company.
An outline for these standards would incorporate fair wages for fair hours, a discrimination-free workplace, risk assessment training to all employees along with providing a safe environment.
Sustainability All The Way
An ethical approach is always conjoined with a sustainable method of production. When we talk about sustainability we set-off to be inclusive of a diverse branch of the environment and of technology. Plainly speaking, we continually involve modern and new practices. And so, sustainability is often rightly- linked with the phrase ‘securing our future’
Clothing industries tend to consume a tremendous amount of vital resources including water, energy, oil and land. Throughout the production process right from the agricultural cultivation of fibre crops, specific for each brand, to the final packaged product, results in mass pollution and waste generation.
Some evaluations indicate that about 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases are released per year just by the textile industry. Toxic chemicals are leaked into water bodies, 10 percent of global emissions can be traced back to clothing mills.
A severe need to consider cleaner fuels and energy sources is rising day-by-day. Shift in choice of textile materials and reusability have to be prioritized to reduce water usage, waste generation and in an attempt to conserve the precious natural resources.
How can the clothing manufacturers contribute?
Power In Evolving
A responsible production line would typically be energy conserving and under environmental compliance. Measures to reduce energy consumption by investing in alternatives like solar panel installations would be taken. Care for use of renewable energy must also be taken.
An important aspect to consider is the Carbon Footprint of a factory. The management of carbon release must be in accordance to the legalised regulations and going beyond those to cut-back greenhouse gases and carbon emissions.
Recognising water as an extinguishable resource and thus, managing its use in production of products is crucial to support the ecosystem. Also, a fundamental requirement of serving clean water to drink for your employees has to be fulfilled.
Changing World Of Polymers
Being a part of the fashion world, it is integral to understand the material you work with. With advancements made, innovations in clothing fabrics are contributing to saving biodiversity, in its own way. Agricultural crop residues and other waste materials are converted into beautiful pieces of clothing, even being featured on the runway. Reusable polymers are trending right now along with biodegradable choices of fibres. Besides the material quality, the construction of these materials need to be ensured are done in a safe and careful method, not involving toxic chemicals and not risking unskilled labour.
Regulations And Keeping Up
In light of the 2015 UN agenda of “ Sustainable Development Goals” or SDGs, industries are to follow and aid these goals focused on - good health and well-being, equality, sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, responsible consumption and production and most importantly climate action. Companies have cherry-picked the relevant SDGs that support their profits.
With a largely interlinked network of businesses, extending across different sectors, keeping record of the core values of a company and its products gets hard. To ensure this value is kept intact, certain regulatory boundaries and bodies have been set-up.
Companies often rely on vetted-factories and manufacturers. The “vetting” can be carried out in different ways and levels. Generally, standard protocol certification is required with an extensive inspection.
While it is hard to keep up with all of the certifications for good working conditions, and energy conservation and what not, the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard is a levelled place to start.
A common practice of putting up QMS or Quality Management System is followed. Often, an independent third-party audit is brought in to conform to a standard set of requirements to which additional fields may be added. Regular and surprise inspections are also sometimes used for consistent evaluations.
So, Why Be Ethical ?
Ethical Manufacturing may seem like a complex and convoluted concept, which it might be, but at the heart of it, it tries to create a better world. And, well, with natural resources depleting drastically, steep climate changes, global warming and all the other disastrous outcomes of reckless consumption, we are not really left with another choice.
On top of saving the world, conserving proves to be cost-effective. Reusable materials are recycled and bought at a lower price. Renewable energy might need large initial investments, but ends up saving money in the long run, paying back all it’s worth back and practically making energy free! If we monetise human emotional value- caring for employees and supporting them cements trust and loyalty ultimately boosting morale productivity.
With only upsides powering your business model, going green is the smartest option on the block and the most environmentally- friendly too.