Giving to charity is nice, but what if a company’s supply chain gets an F in the ethics department?

Prior to launching Sat Nam babe and deciding to take a leap of faith to start my own kids yoga clothes company, I worked at a large non-profit for almost nine years. Some of those years involved becoming an expert in the world of cause marketing, i.e. when a company contributes a fixed dollar amount or percent of sales over a specified period of time to a charity. You normally see an influx of these campaigns popping up during October, breast cancer awareness month.

 Companies love cause marketing, because the stats show that people feel really good about these partnerships. And of course, the company has a marketing hook to positively associate themselves with said charity.

 None of the above on its own is a bad thing in the least; most times, it’s a win-win for the company and the non-profit. However, would consumers feel differently about companies giving to charity if they found out that a companies’ supply chain was corrupt?

I’ll give you an example of a well-known fast fashion retailer. Each year, they contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities, yet their business model is all about churning out cheap, poorly made clothes to appease to consumer’s interests.

Fashion is the number two environmental polluter, not to mention when the retail price is CHEAP, those costs are felt by some level of the supply chain; the people who suffer are the factory workers in third world countries, i.e. those with no voice.

So that inspiring cause marketing campaign supporting breast cancer awareness isn’t looking so great anymore when taking a holistic, 360-degree view of the company and its practices.

 What can individuals do to be more active, critical and informed consumers, ensuring that their dollars are supporting conscious companies?

  • Educate yourself. The True Cost is a great documentary that beautifully sums up the injustices in the fashion industry in one film and is a must watch.

  • Look for seals that demonstrate excellence. Seals like the Fair Trade mark, BCorps and Done Goodfor example, all demonstrate that a company’s ethical practices are top notch. For example, B Corps and Done Good make companies take rigorous, extensive assessments and companies need to obtain a certain score before being recognized by these orgs. Sat Nam babe is proud to be a Done Good company – they asked us SO many in depth questions about our supply chain – and we truly appreciate that!

  • Follow and get to know the brands that you want to support. Do NOT assume that your favorite brand is doing everything in its power to bring a mindful good to market. They may exude a bright, cheery image (especially easy to portray in kids’ clothes) or tell a compelling story around the brand, but unless they are actively talking about their sustainability efforts in detail, chances are, it’s not a big priority for the company. Dig around on their website with a critical eye and then make your decision as to whether you want to support with your dollars or not.

Consumers are SO incredibly powerful and can be an active advocate for a more just fashion industry; a fashion industry that is not just looking for a quick marketing lift from a charity partnership. A fashion industry that is less polluting to our planet and ensures that all humans, even those who have little to no voice, can live with dignity.

 NY Times article: Why Won't We Learn from the Survivors of the Rana Plaza Disaster?




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