Mindful, sustainable, ethical. These are more than just trendy buzzwords; they have become values consumers look for when patronizing businesses of all types. After all, far too many brands with plenty of cash to spare have been caught in recent years exploiting workers and practicing unsustainable and even dangerous production methods.
The fashion industry is well known for problematic practices. Thanks especially to the internet, there are many ways to look into your favorite clothing brands and find out how they're performing from a global, ethical perspective.
A company's core values can indicate how they approach issues relating to mindfulness and sustainability. If the company mentions that they value the importance of social responsibility or environmental policies, this is a clue that it is included in the overall values of the brand.
This is a good starting point to assessing these issues for a clothing brand, though the company needs to put actions behind their words.
Customer relationships show how mindful a company is because these relationships are the bedrock of the company's success. Mindful companies know that building customer trust is important and ensures that consumers are satisfied with their shopping experience. Companies that don't put effort into these relationships may not be as mindful as they say.
Check the clothing materials to determine if the company cuts corners when it comes to sourcing fabrics or accessories. From cheaply made products to those not sourced ethically or sustainably, this is another indicator of how mindful or sustainable a clothing brand really is. Keep in mind, though, that many materials have both ethical and unethical production methods, so just because something is made from cotton does not mean the company is sustainable, and just because it is made from polyester does not mean it isn't.
Fair trade relationships ensure that companies pay suppliers a fair price for their labor and goods. Certification within the supply chain of a clothing brand shows that the company is serious about demonstrating mindfulness and sustainability in its practices. This builds trust between the clothing brand and the consumer.
Manufacturing is one of the biggest ways that a clothing brand can show how committed it is to sustainability. If the company exploits labor in other countries through the cheapest possible manufacturing options, then it is likely not as mindful as it claims to be.
Companies that care about being sustainable will ensure that manufacturing processes — no matter where they take place — reflect their corporate values.
Most clothing companies publish a corporate social responsibility report on their websites to show what they have done in the last year, what values they are committed to exemplifying, and what they plan to do in the upcoming year.
Read through this report to determine if the values of the brand align with your own.
Brands that care about social issues do more than say so on their social media pages for public credit. Clothing brands that are ingrained in being mindful act as such every day. They promote diversity policies at the corporate level, get involved in their communities, and are committed to ensuring social equality for all. They might speak up for or against issues that won't help their bottom line, or donate money to social issue groups. Look for companies that match your own opinions on these matters.
If a company has just started engaging in mindful or sustainable actions even though they have been in business for 50 years, this indicates that it may not be as committed to this issue as they say they are. However, it could also mean they are legitimately trying to improve. In general, though, companies that truly care about people and the planet have been doing so since before it was trendy.
Clothing brands source materials from various places, and depending on the type of clothing, some areas of the world mean a more sustainable approach than others.
For instance, companies sourcing fabric from halfway around the globe when there are options found much closer are not exemplifying values that adhere to mindfulness or sustainability. On the other hand, if their materials are only available in a different country or are woven or hand-painted by women in developing countries, they may be supporting global initiatives in a different way.
Employees are a good gauge for how mindful or sustainable a clothing brand, both those that work for the company currently and former workers. They have insights into operational strategies and company policies that either work to promote accountability where mindfulness and sustainability are concerned or work against those values. Websites like Glassdoor can deliver these metrics, but remember to find multiple sources to back up the claims — positive or negative.
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