Ethical sourcing isn’t something that companies should just do to be able to say that they are doing it. It’s more than a trend or fad—it’s a way of treating the planet and its inhabitants with respect and care. It’s not easy, but at its core ethical sourcing means you’re doing everything possible to ensure that the products you buy are produced in an environmentally sustainable way, paying workers fair wages, and minimizing waste throughout the production process. You might think this sounds like an impossible task or an expensive one, but it doesn’t have to be either!
Phase 1: Educate yourself.
The first step to ethical sourcing is education. Every business, large or small, should make it a priority for its employees to understand the issues surrounding ethical sourcing. This can be done in many ways: through online courses and seminars; by attending conferences like Fashion Revolution Week (April 24-30); or by reading books like The Transparency Handbook: How to Make Supply Chains Work for People and Planet by Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
When learning about these issues it’s important not only that you understand their importance but also how they affect your business and what you can do about them. For example, if there is child labor being used in one of your supply chains then this may mean that some of your products need redesigning because they are not fit for children’s hands or heights; alternatively it may mean finding another supplier who has better working conditions than those currently used by them.
Phase 2: Do your homework.
Before you start sourcing, you must do your homework. The first step is to find out what your suppliers are doing. The second step is to find out what the industry standard is. The third step is to find out what the law says–and if there isn’t any legislation in place on this issue yet (which there often isn’t), then it’s time for some lobbying!
Next comes ethical sourcing guidelines from organizations like Fair Trade USA, B Corp and others; these will help guide you toward becoming more socially responsible as a company and make sure that no one gets left behind along the way (like farmers). Lastly but not leastly: sustainability standards like those set by The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
Phase 3: Know your suppliers.
Now that you have an understanding of the issues surrounding ethical sourcing, it’s time to take action. This third phase is all about knowing your suppliers, key players in the supply chain and end users.
- Know your suppliers: The first step in knowing your suppliers is to ask them questions about their practices. You should ask about labor conditions at their factory(s), how they treat their workers (including those from different marginalized groups), whether they pay fair wages and offer benefits like health insurance or maternity leave; if there are any unions at their facility; if so, what role do these unions play? Are there audits conducted on a regular basis by third-party organizations like NGOs or government agencies? If so how often do these audits occur?
- Know key players in your supply chain: This includes everyone from farmers who grow raw materials used in creating products (e.g., cotton) all the way through transportation providers who get those raw materials onto trucks headed toward factories where they will be processed into finished goods ready for sale online or at retail stores across America!
Phase 4: Certification is important, but it’s not enough.
Certification can be a good thing, but it’s not enough.
Certification can be expensive and time consuming.
Certification isn’t always easy to find.
Phase 5: Understand the issues faced in production, transportation and consumption.
In this phase, you will learn about the issues faced in production, transportation and consumption. You’ll also see how these three areas are interconnected and where you can make a difference as an individual.
- Production: Many people think of slavery as a thing of the past–an unfortunate but isolated event that occurred centuries ago. But it’s still happening today! There are millions of slaves around the world today–including children who are forced to work long hours for little or no pay under terrible conditions (or worse). Slavery exists because people want cheap goods and services; often times those products come from countries where labor laws don’t exist or aren’t enforced properly. By learning about where our goods come from–and how they’re made–we can help put an end to slavery once and for all.* Transportation: Transportation is another area where ethical sourcing becomes important because many companies choose not to disclose which countries their products were shipped from unless specifically asked by consumers
Phase 6: Hold yourself accountable to ethical sourcing standards.
In this phase, you will hold yourself accountable for adhering to ethical sourcing standards. This means taking the time to evaluate your supply chain and make sure that it meets these standards. You can do this through regular audits or by having an independent third party do an audit for you–it’s up to you!
Whatever method you choose, it’s important that you take the time to assess how well your company is doing when it comes to ethical sourcing practices. If a problem is found in any area of your supply chain, then steps must be taken immediately so that further damage isn’t done by continuing business as usual until everything gets fixed (which may never happen).
Phase 7: Encourage others to do the same.
This is the final step of your ethical sourcing journey, and it’s also one of the most important.
As you have learned throughout this process, being an ethical consumer is about more than just making sure you do not buy products that are made in unethical ways or from unethical companies. It’s about encouraging others to do the same. In order for this movement to really take off and make an impact on our world, we need people like YOU who are willing to speak up and stand up for what they believe in–even if it means changing their mind!
Phase 8: Always be open to change and improvement.
The final step is to always be open to change and improvement. If you’re doing this right, you’ll be constantly learning from the world around you. You may hear feedback from your team, suppliers, customers and experts that can help shape your business practices in a positive direction.
This doesn’t mean that every piece of advice needs to be followed–after all: “Successful people have failed many times before they succeeded.” But it does mean being open-minded enough so that when someone offers useful information about how they would like their products sourced more ethically (or whatever else), then we listen closely!
There are so many ways that you can be an agent of change and improve the way we consume today!
Ethical sourcing is not a one-size-fits-all practice. You may have your own ideas about how to improve the way we consume today, and that’s great! There are so many ways that you can be an agent of change and improve the way we consume today!
- You can encourage others to do the same by sharing this guide with them, or even creating your own version of it (you know, if you want).
- You can hold yourself accountable to ethical sourcing standards by keeping track of where every item in your wardrobe comes from–and why it matters if they don’t meet those standards.
- And always remember: there’s always room for improvement!
We have just scratched the surface of ethical sourcing, but hopefully you now have a better understanding of what it means and how it applies to your own life. It can seem like an overwhelming task to try and change the world, but by starting small and making incremental changes in our own lives we can make a big difference!