In my quest for an ethically-acceptable RTW cardigan, several commenters suggested I look at People Tree. I did try there, but they all looked a bit too "hand-made" (yeah, I know - the irony!). But it made me think I should explore a higher price-point than is my norm, and in the process I came across a number of smaller European "designer" labels whose hearts appear to be in the right place, many of which can be found at online shops like Fashion Conscience. Sadly, the one I liked there was sold out, so I kept looking.
OK, cut to the chase girl, what are its ethics?
It comes from a small Amsterdam-based company formerly known as Scotch and Soda, but this cardi has the label "Maison Scotch". I think it is worth quoting their ethical statement in full, because it is clear and straightforward, and after some thought, acceptable to me. Really, it just sounds like commonsense - no flash community initiatives or microcredit deals for franchisees, just fair.
They call it their "Code of Conduct":
"•All suppliers have to operate in compliance with the laws of the countries in which they operate.
•No supplier will engage in forced labour or labour which involves physical or mental abuse or any form of corporal punishment.
•Workers must not be younger than the age for working in any specific country and not less than 14 years, whichever is the greater. I wondered about this one - but it is in line with the minimum UK working age.
•No discrimination shall be tolerated in hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement based on gender, age, religion, race, disability, ethnic and national origin, union membership and/or sexual orientation.
•Wages and benefits must be fully comparable with local norms, must comply with all local laws and must conform to the general principle of fair and honest dealings. Illegal, unauthorized or disciplinary deductions from wages shall not be made.
•Suppliers must ensure that regular working hours or overtime do not exceed the legal maximum according to local law.
•Overtime hours are to be solely worked on a voluntary basis and to be paid at a premium rate.
•All workers should be free to join associations of their own choosing, and they should have the right to bargain collectively. Disciplinary actions against workers who choose peacefully and lawfully to organize or join an association are unacceptable.
•Suppliers must provide a safe and hygienic workplace to prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of, linked with, or accruing in the course of work.
•Suppliers must ensure that products (fabrics, clothing articles, trimmings, packaging, hangers etc.) do not contain hazardous materials (incl. AZO-dyestuffs, PCP's, Cadmium, chrome, copper, formaldehyde, lead, nickel) in higher concentrations than permitted and/or as described in the production manual Scotch & Soda provides on a regular basis, whatever is the more stringent. Supplier must ensure to follow REACH Regulation.
•Supplier confirms that it will not, now or for future orders, use any production technique that involves sand-blasting or any other production technique that is directly harmful to the health of its workers.
•Supplier agrees to maintain on file such documentation as may be needed to demonstrate compliance with this Code of Conduct, and further agrees to make these documents available for Scotch & Soda or it's designated auditor's inspection upon request. Actual factory inspections would obviously be better.
•Procedures and standards for waste management, handling and disposure of chemicals and other dangerous materials, emissions and effluent treatment, must meet or exceed minimum legal requirements. "
Now, obviously I am trusting Scotch and Soda to carry out regular audits against these principles. They might not! But I like the language of their Code of Conduct and elsewhere on their website. They sound like honest people.
And how much did this cost me?
£60 (reduced from £140 in the summer sale at FussyNation in Bayswater.)
That's less than a Boden bobble-tastic cardi, but about 5 times the price of a Primark special. There is no way on this green earth that I was ever going to fork out £140 for a cardigan, but I can justify £60 if it lasts me several years without looking worn-out or "dated".
Only time will tell if I have made a mistake. But for now, I have done all I can to appease my conscience.
And now I need to get knitting so that this does not have to happen again!