1. Visit the factory/ supplier that you're working with. Ask them questions about their standards.
This is perhaps the most critical thing any business owner can do to ensure that their standards are upheld wherever their actual products are being made. In our digital, work-from-home world, it can be scarily easy to partner with factories and fulfillment centers while never having stepped foot in there yourself. Keep in mind, it is a lot easier for a factory to convince you of their standards over the phone than when you're actually in their workshop. It is completely fair of you to want to see the place where your products are made and to make sure that the facility looks safe, clean, and well run. If a factory is reputable, they will be forthcoming about their standards, practices, and measures taken to assure that they're running an ethical facility. If they're sketchy and don't want you to come in, take that as a red flag and do business elsewhere!
Here at Litany, we have made it a priority to build personal relationships with all of our suppliers. We visit their offices, factories, and stores whenever possible and work with people on a first-name basis. It has greatly enriched our experience of the fashion industry by getting to work with and learn from such a diverse array of artisans. We get to see their facilities and we have built up a great deal of trust with them.
2. Pay everyone you work with a fair wage.
This one may sound obvious: pay your employees! Are they able to thrive on their salary? Hopefully that's already happening on your immediate team, but when it comes to working with others, buying supplies, or out-sourcing as a small business owner, it can often be tempting to try to haggle or get the cheapest price as possible. Sometimes suppliers have no choice but to give in, even though it means they are not getting a fair price for their goods or services. While sometimes compromise is necessary and good, you should always be willing to pay a fair price for what you're getting.
3. Be honest, transparent, and trustworthy. Even when no one's watching.
Trust is important across the board, but it is especially crucial with your customers. They are the most important element of your business-without them, there would be no point! But how quick are we to turn sour, defensive, and stubborn when a customer submits a complaint or is looking for a refund? Making sure your business promotes outstanding customer service is probably one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to be more ethical.
In addition to building trust with your audience through customer service, it is powerful and important to be transparent about your practices as well. Don't cut corners and you won't have anything to hide. At Litany, we are striving to do things ethically even in small ways that no one sees. Character is built and tested when no one is watching.
4. Get involved in your community.
This will look different for everyone depending on what sector you work in and where. There are so many options though! If you can, look for charities or organizations near you that are looking for volunteers. For example, we set aside a work day to volunteer together at FABSCRAP, an organization that works to recycle textiles and save them from landfills. This was such a cool way for us to give back to the industry we work in. If time is an obstacle, consider donating a portion of a sale to a charity that you believe in.
You don't have to have a perfect plan to get started- you could just take a day off to go volunteer at a soup kitchen, with a religious community, or wherever you can make a positive difference.
5. Know your values and never compromise.
Now that you've reached the end of this article, chances are you're buzzing with new ways to change your practices to be more ethical, and that's great!! The first step is sitting down and deciding what your standards will be and then sticking to them...no matter what. Trust us, it can be tempting to waver when it gets tough, but you (and everyone you work with) will thank you for doing the hard thing when it mattered the most.
You can do this!!!! Comment below some of your tips on how to be more ethical!