Unattainable perfectionism and sustainability
Are sustainable brands held to an unattainable level of perfectionism?
When founding Teddyred, being as environmentally kind as possible was at the forefront of planning my brand. Initially, I had been inspired by various other sustainable brands such as TALA that had become successful without compromising their values as a business. Something that I had not realised beforehand, is that once you have declared yourself a sustainable business people become heavily critical of anything deemed remotely unsustainable, which is both positive and negative.
The price differences in eco-friendly products vs plastics was huge, and quite daunting at first. I think at one point I worked out that I could buy 50 compostable mailers for the price of 500 plastic poly mailers, which for a start-up brand is something that had to be factored into budgets very early on. Nevertheless, I did not want to compromise my brand values over the initial concern of costs, and there was no hesitation in choosing the compostable option. At Teddyred, all of our garments are ethically produced and fair-wage approved, and our supply chains have been assessed from start-to-finish to ensure that production is kind to all parties involved. These are not just brand values, but they are topics that are incredibly important to me as a individual, particularly as we have seen in the past what casualties un-ethical manufacturing has led to.
Holding brands accountable is a huge part of making a difference to manufacturing standards in the UK, which has only been exemplified by the revelation of working conditions in fast-fashion brands such as Boohoo and Prettylittlething. Bringing poor working conditions to light, through social media particularly, has lead to a huge shift in how consumers view fast-fashion and ultimately shoppers have become more conscious on how their clothes are made. This has increased the demand for sustainable brands exponentially, which is an incredible improvement on 5 years ago where these brands were few and far between. However, this has led to an outbreak of scrutiny towards eco-friendly brands that are, for example, 90% sustainable in packaging and production, rather than 100%
Something that is evident on social media, particularly with big sustainable brands such as TALA and NU-IN is that the smallest deviation away from 100% sustainability is extremely scrutinised. TALA has recently partnered with ASOS on a new activewear collection that is sustainably produced, which appears to be a great step towards fast-fashion brands promoting more sustainable production methods. However, it has been met with scrutiny due to the history of the brand ASOS, claiming that a partnership between this brands does not advocate for eco-friendly production. In a social media post, founder Grace Beverley states 'We know we are not the most sustainable option, no brand will be whatever the composition of their clothes.. However, there is a dire need for these brands to come to the forefront, and to become the norm'. This is an incredibly important message to convey to consumers, as we should be encouraging brands to be more environmentally conscious by supporting steps that they take in the right direction, rather than hold them to an unattainable level of perfectionism. It also reinforces the message that the longterm goal is not to be the MOST sustainable brand out there, but be part of a revolution of sustainable brands that change the overall standards of manufacturing garments.
Seeing this evolution of consumer awareness in manufacturing standards is a huge step in the right direction, and I genuinely think that in another 5 years all garment production will have to adhere to the same standards. Social media has had a huge role in this, and has been the driving force for change in this industry. There is still a huge way to go in implementing better policies, and continuing to hold brands accountable for their actions is an imperative part of that. However, what is concerning is that it is also deterring brands from taking small steps to a more sustainable option such as swapping from recyclable packaging to compostable packaging, through fear of being 'cancelled' or 'boycotted' on social media for not being 100% sustainable. It is definitely a controversial topic, and I have experienced scrutiny myself at Teddyred, which I believe has made me a better business owner, despite being slightly offended by some of the DM's I receive (but who isn't every once in a while) and I will continue to look for the most eco-friendly options suitable for Teddyred, to ensure that we are a part of this sustainable revolution.