As more high street brands and multinationals advertise themselves as sustainable, is there still a place for the small independents? We say yes. Here’s why.
1. Ethical is about much more than being “green”. It’s easy to fly the “ethical” flag but cutting out polyester, or using recycled packaging isn’t enough. Being ethical isn’t just environmental - it’s about economical and social too. We are all for natural fabrics and plastic-free everything, but so much of that positivity is undone if those making the garments are subjected to poor pay and unsafe conditions. For example, H&M have a conscious collection in which pieces are made from incredible fabrics such as orange fibre and Pinatex - which is very admirable - but this doesn’t change the fact that they have $4bn of dead stock that could end up in landfill, or that their suppliers’ garment workers face unacceptable working conditions. A narrow focus on the fabrics only is a clear case of “green-washing” over the cracks.
2. Small businesses generate enormous employment and economic activity around the world. In India, tens of millions of small businesses account for 40% of the economy and 80% of employment. Be it small organic farmers, ethical fashion brands or independent restaurants, there is no doubting that these are the individuals and small businesses that help us towards a more sustainable world. Everyday, the power and popularity of multinational corporates erode through local communities, grow the gap between rich and poor, and use ever more vital natural resources. As consumers, we have the power to shop positively i.e. support progressive companies with our money. At Ethical Stories Ethical Me, we work with small groups of artisans and cooperatives where artisans themselves are empowered by ensuring they are paid a fair wage, and benefit from workshops to further their learning both personally and professionally.
3. There is an incredible beauty in heritage craft, handed down through generations with practice and talent that machines simply cannot replicate. There are also skills which are being used less in less because large companies see them as expensive techniques. For example, did you know that vegetable tanning is now on an endangered list by The Heritage Crafts Association? This is why pieces like our Geo Envelope Clutch are so special, made by female artisans in Haiti using vegetable tanned leather. Our Kausheya scarves are a similar story: Kausheya empowers artisans in India, and respects the environment by keeping silk in its raw form rather than using chemical dyes, and also by block printing by hand which saves gallons of water per scarf.
So, when you’re next shopping, think about positive buying (putting your money towards pieces and brands that stand for something ethical, cruelty-free and sustainable). Also think about company-based buying, which is essentially being very pro a brand based on their ethics or going as far as to boycott them if their principles don’t align with yours.