There seems to be a flourishing of buzzwords surrounding industries in today's world, with many fashion labels jumping on the green wave. This has ultimately lead to many questions being asked amongst communities about "ethical" fashion and what it actually means. The term ethical stems from ideas of what is right and wrong, yet it is essentially up to ones own to actually decide on what is right and what is wrong. What is right for one person might not align with someone else. What is ethical for M&S might be very distant to what is ethical to GAP. I ask the question if this could confuse customers. Are different brands simply jumping on a buzzword and what does this mean in the long run. Will customers start to distrust the wider green industry, as I'm sure we are all aware, they are a fickle bunch with a few merely trying to find holes to pick apart. With this in mind I raise the question to what else is needed to avoid this. What are customers looking for other than just buzzwords?
After writing this post over a year ago, we have had some interesting insights and conceptual models to the wider issues around ethical labeling and what it actually means to be ethical. I thought I would touch base with a few suggestions of my own.
Firstly the word ethical in its current form might be seen as too narrow and in fact I believe it falls into a wider contextual outfit of 'sustainability'. To be truly sustainable a company needs to have a triple bottom line. That of which is Ethical, Environmental and Profitable. One can not survive without the other.
So...returning back to my original question. Whether or not customers will start to distrust the wider green industry through the use of magical words, sprinkled on a brand to levitate it's status. I am not for a second stating that the use of labels and keywords is not important to customers, in fact the majority of brands using them help bring clarity and are raising the awareness of the 'sustainable market'. This said in-order for a true sense of how sustainable a brand is we should look at their current performances and future goals. This method was coined as 'ethical velocity' by John Grant. Measuring direction and speed of change. He uses the example of DuPont, the chemical company has managed to cut emissions by over 60% and toxic pollution by over 90%, aiming in the future to have zero environmental impact on every measure.
I bring this into the equation with the thought that if companies were more transparent from the beginning, recognizing their flaws and providing a light to where they want to be, maybe further customers will adopt and trust the 'sustainable' market, helping it's momentum, whilst not just relying on carefully placed labels that can often disguise broader based issues, in this very complex market.
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