It goes without saying that consumers these days are far more conscious of the ethics and sustainability behind their favourite beauty and clothing buys than ever before. With a surge in awareness of cosmetic testing on animals as well as issues such as sweat shop worker exploitation in the fashion industry, it is no wonder that attitudes towards the things we buy are beginning to change.
Though the shifting mentality may still be reserved for those who have access to the information, as well as the privilege to allow themselves a choice in what they wear on their body, it is important that changes manifest somewhere. Taking the example of makeup, more than ever, consumers are demanding that the brands to which they are loyal are transparent in their branding and marketing, and most crucially ensure that their products fit certain criterion, such as being cruelty-free and sustainably-produced. There is a general consensus that testing on animals for cosmetic use is unnecessary; the indecision towards the use of animals only really begins to arise when we consider issues like drug-testing for medicines. As such, many brands are shifting away from the use of animals when formulating their products. I have provided a list of cruelty-free brands at the end of this article, and using that link you can also see which brands openly test on animals.
Furthermore, sustainability is a huge talking point. The current epoch is seeing obscene levels of pollution and habitat destruction as a result of selfish over-consumption and poor recycling and landfill practices across the globe. One major problem is that of the build-up of toxic plastic in natural habitats; not only on a large, plastic bag scale, but also in regards to microbeads which have been polluting our oceans.
As a result of extensive campaigning and awareness, the USA imposed a ban on the use of microbeads in wash-off back in 2016, and earlier this year, the UK government promised to scrap them for good in all products. Companies are beginning to use alternative materials such as salt, sugar and shell granules to offer the same exfoliating properties as microbeads, and huge companies like L’Oreal and Unilever have come under fire for using them in their products, and as such, are working to remove them from all of their products.
In 2015, fashion bloggers were transported to sweatshops in Cambodia to uncover the horrors behind the £5 dresses in your wardrobe, with workers forced to make clothes in cramped and unsafe conditions, working long hours on abhorrently low wages. This, amongst other similar initiatives, prompted a movement of consumers questioning where their clothes were being made and sourced.
Shoppers today also are far more engaged in the sustainability of the products they are buying. As such, many companies disclose openly how their products are made; companies like Cheap Monday ensure that consumers are engaged and aware of the impact that post-consumer waste (PCW) can have and, in line with this, claim to produce products made from ‘waste’, reducing the impact on raw material sources. H&M and Monki offer clothes vouchers for customers that donate bags of old clothes to them.
Moreover, retailers offering delivery services in an era of huge interest of the online shopping movement have to consider the sustainability of their packaging. Companies such as ASOS have an entire section on their site dedicated to their ‘Corporate Responsibility’ which includes information about their mission to reduce emissions and use recycled materials in their packaging; Cheap Monday proudly have a ‘Sustainability’ section amongst the main links on their homepage.
The next time you go out to treat yourself, consider the ethics and sustainability of the clothes you are buying. Nobody is suggesting that you ditch all forms of consumerism and start making your own clothes and makeup from scratch, but to make conscious decisions about where you are putting your money. Since we are lucky enough to have such a breadth of choices available to us in the Western world; there is almost no excuse to not think about the bigger picture.
Cruelty-free makeup brands:
Sustainable clothing brands:
H&M group (includes Monki, Cos, Cheap Monday, & Other Stories, Arket & Weekday) – largely use recycled or reused cotton in their products; big advocates of environmental sustainability
Nobody’s Child – pride themselves on providing ‘fast fashion with a conscience’ most of their production and distribution zones based in the UK
Stella McCartney – huge advocate of sustainable, high-end fashion
Matt & Natt – Vegan fashion