Navigating the world of ethical consumerism is no simple feat. Fashion labels across the globe have been quick to capitalise off the increasing interest in ethical products, but that doesn’t mean they’ve changed their ways. Instead, many companies adopt greenwashing techniques and collaborate with questionable certification schemes to capitalise from confused consumers. So, which certification schemes can you trust to uphold your values? Here are the schemes we hold certification with and the reasons why.
Fairtrade is an international not-for-profit created to benefit the growers and makers within supply chains most commonly associated with child, slave and sweatshop labour. They are (mainly, but not limited to) coffee, tea, cacao (chocolate), and cotton.
Fairtrade is owned 50% by the growers it supports, meaning they get a real say in its run. When a brand wants to purchase from a Fairtrade certified maker/grower co-op, they have to pay (at least) the Fairtrade Minimum Price (this is usually much higher than market value). They also have to pay a Fairtrade Premium (15%) which goes directly to the makers for use in a way that benefits their community (think, improved access to water, hospitals and schools). In that way, Fairtrade aims to reduce one of the major causes of modern slavery: poverty.
Fairtrade certification is rigorous, and independent auditing continues beyond accreditation. It is the most stringent auditing process of all ethical certification schemes.
Etiko's relationship with Fairtrade began in 2006 when Etiko became a founding affiliate of the Australasian Fairtrade movement. Etiko was the first Fairtrade clothing company in the southern hemisphere.
We believe Fairtrade is the gold standard for consumers and businesses. If something has the Fairtrade logo, you can trust that it was made as fairly as possible throughout every level of the supply chain.
B Corporation is the ethical certification for businesses—all types of businesses.
B Corps are organisations committed to creating a better economic system that benefits people and the planet. More than 150 different industries are part of the certification scheme, and the standards for accreditation are robust. They include qualifiers around governance, transparency, and environmental and social impacts.
Etiko became a certified B Corporation in 2017, just three years after the first Australian company (Australian Ethical) received certification.
To be a B Corp brand, Etiko meets the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability and aspire to use the power of our business to solve social and environmental problems.
Being a member of Social Traders means that Etiko is recognised as a social enterprise. Why is that important? Because Social Traders foster the growth of their certified social enterprises across Australia. Why? Because social enterprises use profits for social causes that ultimately improve people's lives, communities, and the environment. Social Traders also support the growth of social enterprises by connecting them to the buying power of the Government and private sector. And when our Government and big businesses channel money into ethical business, it normalises purchasing organic, Fairtrade and sustainable products.
The Global Organic Textile Scheme (GOTS)
Annually an estimated 55 million tonnes of pesticide is used on cotton crops. The pesticides can leach into local waterways endangering wildlife and impacting those who use the waterway for drinking, fishing and bathing. GOTS is the world's leading organic textile certification scheme that focuses on supply chain transparency to benefit businesses, consumers and farmers.
Etiko has only ever used 100% GOTS certified organic cotton (or hemp) in our production.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
The FSC was launched in Germany almost 30-years-ago and focused on the companies that supply timber or paper products (paper, cardboard, tissues, timber, packaging etc.).
The FSC is run by environmentalists, social groups, indigenous organisations, retailers and forest management companies. For a business to be certified as FSC, it has to meet set criteria regarding the care of animals, plants, indigenous groups (and their communities) and workers.
Etiko only uses FSC-certified products in their packaging (think shoe boxes and cardboard swing tags).
Of course, there are plenty of other certification schemes and initiatives around. They might sound similar, even have a similar logo or name, but the difference between how they’re run can be huge. Many other schemes rely on self-reporting (instead of independent auditing), continue to focus on profits over ethics or sustainability, and are little more than a guide to how things should be done (versus how they’re actually done).
If you intend on shopping consciously for fashion (or anything), it’s important to do your homework and stick to the certifications you can trust. Ask yourself: who runs the label, how do they support workers and growers, what say do those people get, what auditing process is required for certification (independent or self-auditing) and is it difficult to retain certification (it should be)?
It’s up to you as a consumer to be informed.