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#QuestionTheEthics

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Are we being ethical?

After the devastating collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh in April 2013 which killed 1134 people and injured hundreds more, there was an international outcry. It was a tragic wake-up call. Unfortunately this was not the first and may not be the last disaster in the fast fashion industry. In November 2012 a fire broke out in Dhaka, Bangladesh killing over 100 people and in September 2011 a fire in a garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan killed 289.

It’s not just lives we’re taking, it's the environment. Our addiction to “fast fashion” is causing damage to the planet, it simply can’t keep up. According to the WWF one cotton t-shirt can use up to 2,700 litres of water and this increases to about 11,000 litres for a pair of jeans. Then there’s the way the materials themselves are manufactured, large factories releasing tonnes of harmful gases into the environment on a daily basis to meet high street demands is straining our planet. Transport, high energy and inefficient production processes mean that the energy and waste costs of textiles and clothing are high.

The cost of fast fashion

If the price of clothing is so cheap it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Somewhere down the line, someone else is paying the price.

The True Cost

The True Cost film thrusts fashion under the spotlight, the glamorous love affair of designer brands we are so used to seeing in the world of film are transformed to reveal the gritty dark side of the industry.

https://youtu.be/OaGp5_Sfbss

The True Cost says: “This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing?

Filmed in countries all over the world, from the brightest runways to the darkest slums, and featuring interviews with the world’s leading influencers including Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva, The True Cost is an unprecedented project that invites us on an eye opening journey around the world and into the lives of the many people and places behind our clothes.”

Does fast fashion remain indifferent to disaster?

The 2015 release of The True Cost highlighted the industry can’t afford to wait any longer. Since its release in 2015 has enough been done to make a difference?

  • A new US report from spring 2016 found three million workers in Bangladesh continue to be excluded from any international safety improvement initiatives, operating in the shadows.
  • There are still more than 7,000 garment factories producing for the export market in Bangladesh.
  • Despite thousands of inspections very few factories have actually improved since the Bangladesh disaster in 2013 costing 1134 lives.
  • Inspections have taken place by the Accord, The Alliance, the government and the ILO and of the 3.425 inspections that have taken place, only 8 factories have passed.
  • Research on the stock market post Rana Plaza disaster found the economic impact on the business was “insignificant”, the reality is apparel brands and retailers have little incentive to move sourcing out of Bangladesh or other low-cost sourcing countries.

Research offers clear evidence that “when push came to shove” and more than 1000 garment workers lost their lives in Bangladesh, the market reaction was a shrug of the collective shoulders.

What makes an ethical company?

A truly ethical company should be one that does not produce harmful products, exploit it’s workforce by paying low wages in poor conditions, use child labour or cause damage to the environment.

Positive and negative criteria have been developed to establish whether a company or investment fits within these guidelines.

Positive criteria

There are two types of positive approach.The first is known as best of class.

Take pollution, for example. Very few companies could be included in an ethical fund if they were required to have a 100% clean sheet in this regard. A best-in-class approach applies social, environmental and ethical guidelines to give a preferred selection when all other factors are equal. For example, an ethical fund might have criteria which enable it to invest in the oil and gas sector, but only in those oil companies which are ‘best in their class’ as they have a better record on the environment and human rights than others in their sector.

The second positive method is thematic investment. This focuses on companies that are believed to be improving the world. They will be industries of the future with growth potential and may be involved in activities such as reusable energy, education, health care, telecommunications, or public transport.

Negative criteria

The Ethical Investment Research Service (EIRS) has also produced a set of negative criteria.

The EIRS is a charity that screens companies on behalf of other charities and fund managers. Ethical fund managers will select from the various positive and negative criteria in deciding what to include and exclude from their portfolio. Some funds are more ethical than others.

Negative criteria might cover arms and armaments, companies which produce tobacco or alcohol and companies which have a poor record on pollution control. Different fund management use this information to draw up their own portfolios.

Does being an ethical company make a difference?

The most influential part of modern life, whether we like it or not, is the money system and until this changes, animals, humans and the environment will continue to be abused in the name of profit. Socially responsible companies aim to maximise long-term profits, whilst balancing a respect for wider social issues.

It’s easy to think that just one person won’t make a difference, but Sundried believe we can.

The faster ethically responsible companies grow, the more pressure we will place on other companies, investors and banks to move away from unethical practices. As irresponsible practices are being forced under the spotlight public concern is growing over the treatment of animals, people and the environment, making companies involved in these areas less viable in the long term as we become more educated as to how our products are made. Socially responsible investments are now more widely recognised as safe long term investment strategies. The combination of consumer, investment and business pressure can bring about lasting change - change which will benefit people, animals and the environment.

The Ethical Consumer 2015 report found we’re starting to support ethical products: the value of the ethical market has grown from £35 billion to £38 billion.

Sundried’s ethics

Sundried believe that our ethics are what makes us different.

The fashion industry isn’t all doom and gloom, ethical fashion is no longer just a niche sector, it’s becoming part of the mainstream fashion industry, and therefore activewear. 48% of US “millennials” choose brands that actively support social causes (BCG, 2014) with 50% of US adults identifying as ‘green consumers’, (and 13% as ‘super green’) meaning they purchase organic and sustainable products, are informed about the products they buy and expect retailers to keep environmental damage to a minimum (Forrester, 2013).

Delivering premium style and technical function in an ethical way requires extensive research and extra time, but we believe good things come to those who wait. Sundried will remain an ethical company and this makes us different, as larger companies have so far proved to be very slow to take any steps towards robustly ethical production and operations.

At Sundried, the social and environmental factors of our activewear are as important as their technical function and style. We’ve made decisions throughout our clothing lifecycle to encourage transparency, traceability and pride in our manufacturing partnerships.

Sundried’s partnership with The Low Carbon Innovation Fund

The Low Carbon Innovation Fund invested in Sundried in recognition of us contributing to a low carbon economy. Sundried has been audited by the Low Carbon Innovation Fund and we have strict policies and guidelines to ensure everything we do has the very smallest carbon footprint. We minimise the carbon footprint throughout the full lifecycle of our clothing through its design manufacture, distribution, use and disposal.

The original range was produced in Portugal and all further production promises to be based in the UK and Europe to keep our footprint as minimal as possible.

Sundried’s approach to material choice

Sundried proactively take responsibility for the materials we choose to work with and the mitigation of harmful substances, pollution and many other environmental hazards associated with raw materials extraction. There is an incredible array of options now available that offer increasingly conscious consumers a way forward, a new version of honesty, integrity and value in the products being made.

Sundried’s manufacturing approach

Sundried create transparency, traceability and a genuine sense of pride in the partnerships we rely on to bring our products to market. Typically, larger production runs equal lower per unit costs, and large quantities are overwhelmingly produced in regions like China or Romania. Our manufacturers are based in Portugal and facilitated by an increasing number of certification agencies, mapping technologies and specialist organisations. We are loyal to our ethics and have created a brand our customers can be loyal to also.

Sundried staff wellbeing

Sundried respects our staff from the supply chain to the office, with fair wages and staff wellbeing as priority. Typically more waking hours are spent at work than home, so Sundried created the concept of Every Hour On the Hour (EHOH). An initiative where you spend 5 minutes of every hour exercising throughout your working day, exchanging an hour’s break for 30 minutes lunch and 30 minutes exercising to minimise the negative effects of sitting for long durations.

Wash cool, sun dry

Up to 80% of the impact of a t-shirt occurs after purchase. The water, chemical toxicity, energy use and emissions from washing and drying your clothing all contribute to your eco footprint. Throughout Sundried’s marketing, our products, wash care labels and our site, we encourage and remind you to Wash Cool, Sun Dry.

Sundried’s pledge to charity

Sundried do things differently by giving a unique code to charity Water for Kids with every purchase. This unique code leads our buyer to their pledge page where the journey of their donation is revealed, from bricks to build dams to rainwater harvesting for schools. Water for Kids protect the good health of children and communities in the developing world by assisting in the provision of safe drinking water. Sundried customers are encouraged to spread the word by sharing their pledge profile on social media and encouraging other to donate.

Sundried will prove to the industry and consumers that desirable sportswear can be ethical.

Statistics

  • Human beings are currently using the capacity of 1 and a half planet earths.
  • We will need the resources of two earths by 2020.
  • A survey by market research firm Nielsen suggests that the public are happy to pay a little extra for products that are more sustainable, ethical and have a smaller footprint, despite the economic troubles that many are experiencing.
  • A quarter of UK shoppers have said they would buy products that are fairer and greener – an 8% increase on the figure from spring 2011.
  • Globally, the survey found that the percentage of those willing to spend money on ethical goods has risen from 22% in spring 2011 to 46%, thanks to widespread knowledge of factories practices and recent food scandals.
  • Globally, the survey found that the percentage of those willing to spend money on ethical goods has risen from 22% in spring 2011 to 46%, thanks to widespread knowledge of factories practices and recent food scandals.
  • The Ipsos Mori survey conducted for Canadian television channel CTV found that the majority of shoppers are happy to pay a little extra for the guarantee that workers in the garment industry have been treated and paid fairly. The poll investigated the opinion of 18,500 customers in 16 countries and almost three-quarters said they would look at ethical clothing, even if these cost a bit more than ordinary products.