Do you know who made your clothes?
Take a look at the clothes you are wearing now. Your finely cut shirt, your trousers or skirt made from high-tech elasticised material with impeccable stitching… Take a good look at them!
Chances are you bought them online from some funky website, or at a retail outlet. You may have even paid a few good dollars for them too.
But did you ever sit back to think that the clothes you purchased in their cellophane wrapping were probably handled and manufactured in conditions most Australians would abhor?
Or that many of the raw materials that went into your clothes are associated with social and environmental problems?
So, what does this have to do with Internet Retailing you ask?
In May 2016, Australia Post reported that department stores make 32 per cent of their sales online, followed by the fashion sector at 26 per cent.
Sadly, this high volume of ‘fast fashion’ items purchased online means e-commerce is indirectly involved in the exploitation of workers in third-world countries, including child labour, low wages and unsavoury conditions.
Many retailers argue that they need to buy cheap stock to make the margins required to cover the high cost of running a retail business. But there are businesses busting those beliefs.
Julie Mathers, former head of e-commerce at Masters, founded Flora & Fauna, a website offering ethically-sourced, vegan and cruelty-free goods.
She recently told me customers are prepared to pay a bit more for locally-manufactured and ethically-sourced goods. “It makes them feel good,” she said.
And it means Flora & Fauna have a story to tell.
Steve Jobs was one of those who believed that businesses must have a purpose beyond profit to survive.
Purpose gives businesses a story to tell. And there’s no better story than one that helps someone in need and makes the buyer feel that their purchase has more than a monetary value.
Toms, an ethical shoe retailer based in the US, gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes purchased on their website.
“People don’t just wear our shoes, they tell our story,” Toms CEO Blake Mycoskie has stated.
Two weeks ago was Fashion Revolution Week, a global movement to make the fashion industry safer, cleaner and more fair.
The organisation behind the movement, Fashion Revolution, encourages people to ask brands, who made my clothes? And demand greater transparency in the fashion supply chain.
The movement is gaining momentum. Search the hashtag #whomademyclothes on social media to learn more!
I for one will certainly consider more closely where my next piece of clothing is sourced from.
Here are a few organisations working to educate Australians about this issue.
Ethical Clothing Australia: Ethical Clothing Australia is an accreditation body working collaboratively with local textile, clothing and footwear companies to ensure their Australian supply chains are transparent and legally compliant.
Shop Ethical: Every dollar you spend has an impact on the planet and its people.
Article: Australian made doesn’t mean your clothes are sweatshop and child labor free.
Mark Freidin is the co-founder of Internet Retailing and writes a weekly opinion column about the e-commerce industry.
Have a burning question or idea you want to share? Email Mark at iretnews <@> octomedia.com.au.