Since I started this blog in 2010, companies have gotten much more savvy at understanding that they need to at least say all the right things about how their products are manufactured. If you’re trying to find out if a product you’d like to buy was made in ethical conditions, then here’s what you do:

Do an internet search on the name of the product and the word ‘sweatshops’. It works best if you enter the name of the company that owns the product rather than the name of the item itself. For example, instead of searching for ‘Transformers sweatshops’, you should search for ‘Hasbro Sweatshops’ – as Hasbro is the company that makes Transformers. This will bring up any past or present links to sweatshops. Have a read. A company that has a long history of being linked to sweatshops will either be all over the internet for cleaning up their act (like Nike – still not perfect but they’ve come a long way), or you’ll still find reports of sweatshop links (like Hasbro).

If you don’t find anything, email, Facebook message or tweet at the company. Here’s an example of a simple email or Facebook message to send:

 Dear …….I’m super keen to buy one of your [insert product name] but I only buy products      that are ethically made. Are you able to tell me anything about your manufacturing process and the factories that you make the belts in?

You’ll either get no response (assume they are dodgy and don’t buy the product), an overly simple reply (assume they are dodgy and don’t buy the product), a reply that uses lots of jargon but tells you very little (assume they are dodgy and don’t buy the product), or a very detailed response that gives you locations or names of factories, initiatives they’ve taken, a guarantee that the product isn’t produced in a sweatshop (like Fair Trade certification) and invites you to ask any further questions. Here’s some examples of a few of these responses:

Overly simple reply 

“Our [insert product] are made in the US, Vietnam, Mexico, and Taiwan. We cannot provide any information on how it is made though. Thanks!”

Reply full of jargon but no actual information 

“Hasbro is deeply committed to corporate social responsibility and ethical sourcing across our entire global supply chain. It is our priority to ensure that workers are treated with respect and dignity, and that working conditions are safe, and that business operations are environmentally responsible and conducted ethically. To learn more about our approach to Ethical Sourcing, you can visit our web site”. (Note: When you visit the link there’s a huge amount of information that gives lots of assurances but denies the long history the company has with being linked to sweatshops).

Detailed response you can likely trust

Hi. Thanks so much for getting in touch. For over 25 years, People Tree has partnered with Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco fashion collections. Fair Trade is about creating a new way of doing business; creating access to markets and opportunities for people who live in the developing world.When you shop with People Tree, you can trust that your goods were made ethically and sustainably. People Tree is an active member of many Fair Trade, social justice and environmental networks. We are accredited by the WFTO, the Fairtrade Foundation, and the Soil Association. While many fashion brands talk about ethical fashion, these credentials mean you can trust how our products are made.Please visit our website for more detailed information and keep in touch if you have any more questions. 

If you’re not confident that the product is made without involving the suffering of those that made it, then don’t buy it. You could also post the company’s reply on your social media sites to put some pressure on the company to do better. As the consumer, you have the power to decide where to spend your money. Don’t give it to companies that profit off the pain of others.