Etiko: Helping Make Human Rights Fashionable

Etiko: Helping Make Human Rights Fashionable
You might have heard that Etiko was honoured last month by the Australian Human Rights Commission when we won a Human Rights Award for business. It was the first time an Australian fashion brand has ever won!

We’re no strangers to winning awards at Etiko in our journey over the last decade, we’ve won the Premier’s Sustainability Award, Banksia Foundation Award and even a Golden Greenie Award to name a few.

But awards never get any easier. You see, part of me dreads awards. I hate stressing out about the possibility of losing, and I hate stressing out about what to say in my acceptance speech if we do win.

I always want to show my appreciation for winning the award, but I also need to find the right words to say to get people who are at the awards ceremony to check out the work that Etiko does, so they’ll hopefully buy some of our products or become advocates for our brand.

That being said, awards are very important to Etiko, and not just because it feels good to be recognised for the hard work we do but also to ensure that everyone who is involved in producing our clothing, footwear and sporting goods receives a living wage.

Firstly, winning awards is good for visibility. At the recent Human Rights Awards, there were more than 500 people in attendance.

What an amazing opportunity to get in front of representatives from non-government organisations, the government sector and the corporate sector. If some of them not only purchased Etiko products for themselves, but also encouraged their organisations to start purchasing ethically and sustainably it would have a huge impact on our business.

It was also a fantastic opportunity to meet with other finalists and award winners to talk about ways we could collaborate in the future.

I was pleased to reconnect with Pat Anderson AO, who was awarded the 2016 Human Rights Medal for her work as an advocate for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the areas of health, education, early childhood development and violence against women and children. I first met her 20 years ago when I was working in adult education in remote indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

Pat was very encouraging when I spoke to her about the work we are doing, particularly in indigenous communities - where our Jinta sport brand donates 2.5% of all its sales to funding indigenous sports programs in the Northern Territory. Pat was quite keen to work with us and spread the word about Jinta.

I also met Deng Adut, the 2016 NSW Australian of the Year who was also a finalist in the awards. He’s a leading advocate for refugees and other vulnerable people. Deng came to Australia, when he was 14, having been conscripted as a child soldier in Sudan when he was six. He’s enthusiastic about working with us as a brand ambassador.
Secondly, winning awards is good for validation. While we don’t specifically need an award to validate what we do (we have all the appropriate accreditations, and we know our supply chain) it’s still good to have validation from a third party. Especially when it comes from one we respect, like the Human Rights Commission.
The Australian Human Rights Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs said: “Etiko is proof that it is possible for small and medium sized Australian businesses to be successful and ethical with the inclusion of human rights in their supply chains. I believe Etiko is a leader in this space and we hope other Australian enterprises are inspired to consider new and ethical business strategies.”

As you can imagine, we’re pretty chuffed about Professor Triggs’ words!

Thirdly, awards help differentiate our brand. Here at Etiko we believe that we stand out from the crowd even amongst other ethical brands in the Australian and international marketplace. This award from the Australian Human Rights Commission helps to establish that we really do.

We already know from the recent Australian Fashion Report that audited hundreds of Australian fashion brands, that Etiko was one of only two that could prove they paid their workers a living wage.

Our ethical supply chain model impressed the judges and the Human Rights Commission, and we know that we are definitely a leader in this space.

Winning a prestigious award gained Etiko some press coverage in the mainstream media, with both radio and press getting in contact with us and discussing our business. It’s been good to get our message out there that way, which is another great bonus from winning the award.

And then there’s family and friends who’ve known what we’ve been doing at Etiko for the last ten plus years who might not stop to think about it day in and day out… seeing us win this accolade has helped them to remember the importance of what we are doing and spread the word among their own networks as well.

When I think about all of the ways that winning an award can help Etiko, it’s more than worth the feelings of dread in the lead up to the awards ceremony.

Awards give us more opportunities to reach people who might not have otherwise heard of our brand, and the more people we reach, the more we can help to make the world a better place.

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