Where it comes from matters

This is a two part article regarding business ethics, co-created with Jo Salter, founder of outrageously ethical clothes retailer Where Does It Come From?

Part one is below.

Part two is here:

Hello Jo, you’re one of the leaders in ethical business, can you talk to me about what the concept of Ethical means, in principle, to yourself and your business? Imagine if business people are reading this and thinking what are the principles behind ethical commerce? How does it relate in business practice? Where in the supply line does ethics begin.. and end… and how does it translate commercially. Please, share your thoughts, experience, and understanding:

Hi Bird, thanks for inviting me to comment.  I do feel passionate about ethical business, although I really believe that all business should be ethical.  Of course it is vital in business to be profitable, otherwise a business cannot stay afloat, however the focus on finance as the only goal is becoming increasingly unpopular, especially with a consumer base who are becoming more driven by their core values.  When you hear about the richest people in the world running businesses where worker rights and environmental concerns are rife then it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Ethical as a term is wide reaching and I would argue that we all have our own individual values. Some people are driven by the environment, others by animal rights and others by human rights – and there are many more areas too.  However when I’m talking about an ethical code it is around altruism – not for personal gain.  People are so inspiring when they give their time, passion and money to a cause that they hold dear, and it is this that changes the world.  Shopping according to personal values is a growth area – the UK ethical market grew by 3.2% in 2016, which is impressive when you consider that inflation was only 0.64% (Ethical Consumer Magazine).  We are also seeing celebrities such as Emma Watson and our new Duchess of Sussex embracing ethics as a way of expressing their personal values (see https://www.wheredoesitcomefrom.co.uk/dress-values-like-meghan-markle/)

There is a huge upsurge of ethical businesses who are targeting these values driven consumers.  One of the many challenges is that most of these people are already in the habit of shopping with certain brands who are perhaps easier to shop from, so if these larger brands can convince them that values will be met then they are likely to stay loyal.  Many larger brands are taking steps to address this market, which can only be a good thing for consumers as well as people and planet.  However ethical brands offer something more unique.  Most have been started from scratch by passionate individuals who have direct links with their product and makers.  Each tends to have a different approach to meeting their ethical goals – for Where Does It Come From? the ethical clothing brand I founded in 2013 it’s all about transparency and telling the stories behind our products through a code on the garment label.  I know other fantastic brands that give back to makers’ communities or contribute to relevant charities.  Most of these ethical brands are completely on top of their supply process and making strong decisions about the source components they use and the people who make their products.

Commercially it is a lot more challenging.  When I set up the business I was told that clothing brands typically charge 6 times what they pay for a garment.  This is something that we cannot do – paying fair wages for high quality organic fabrics whilst still hitting an acceptable market price for customers is a delicate balance.  Ethical businesses tend to be smaller too and without the budgets or the inclination for huge advertising campaigns – being heard is a key challenge we all face.  We rely on loyal customers and social media to spread the word and are always grateful for any PR!  Some of these ethical businesses are being really innovative in pushing the sustainability agenda – we are lean enough to make changes rapidly and we don’t compromise on our values.  You can check out our key policies at https://www.wheredoesitcomefrom.co.uk/ethical-business-policies/.




And they’re crowdfunding. 

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