As we become more aware of the environmental impact of our clothes, and of the conditions in which they are made, we as consumers are asking more questions of manufacturers. One Australian company who have been long focussed in these issues is Cotton On, a household name in the country.
The company are focused on building an ethical, sustainable and profitable business, by ensuring we have a positive impact on our workforce, the community, the planet and all those we connect with. This ethical outlook is stitched into the brand, and ingrained in the company’s founder Nigel Austin’s DNA.
From an early age, Nigel was learning the garment trade first hand, travelling through workshops in China with his father, who owned a wholesale clothing business in Australia. This depth of understanding of the garment manufacturing industry he acquired, alongside the family’s strong ethical values, ensured that Nigel would be fully committed to ensuring that his company operates ethically, with the utmost integrity.
He has followed this vision from the company’s founding, when he opened the first shop at the age of 21, with his cousins working the floor.
Nigel’s vision has been realised by the creation of their Ethical Sourcing Program, summed up in 14 Rules to Trade, which provide a comprehensive guide to govern the sourcing, manufacture and supply of all Cotton On’s products.
The company moved to a direct sourcing model in 1997, which means that their Ethical Sourcing Program is bolstered by the strong, long-standing relationships they have built with trusted suppliers for a period of over twenty years.
The majority of the garments we Australians wear are produced in the Asia-Pacific region, where more than 40 million people are employed manufacturing textiles. The International Labour Organisation estimates that more than half the world’s forced labourers (11.7 million), and 78 million of its child labourers are in this region.
That is why, today, Cotton On places a major emphasis on traceability and transparency. The company work closely with their suppliers to follow exactly where and how their products are made, and map out our entire supply chain.
This allows them to operate responsibly, and to build trust with their customers. Customers always come first with Cotton On, which is why they publicly disclose our supply chain, with the ultimate aim to achieve full disclosure. This will allow you to shop safe in the knowledge that your clothing is manufactured according to the highest ethical standards, and no one is being exploited in a sweatshop along the way.