What does Ethical Making mean?
Ethical making is a way of designing and producing goods which considers how processes impact people and the environment.
An ethical approach to any practice means choosing materials and using methods that will reduce your impact on the environment and increase your business’ social sustainability.
If something is socially sustainable, it provides sustained access to social resources, human and cultural rights to all people towards the safe and equal growth of society.
Further reading on sustainability and social development:
Ethical jewellery and silverware are made with materials that are sourced responsibly and have been traded fairly.
The terms fair trade, fair-trade or ‘fairly traded’ are typically used to mean economic justice for people that have been historically taken advantage of by other people, companies or governments. However, these terms are used to describe a variety of things that are not always tied to real regulations or policies. These terms should not be confused with the registered and protected term, Fairtrade, which is an organisation owned by the international Fairtrade system. For more information about the company Fairtrade see our key organisations page.
Fair trade is an interesting concept because the definition of fair cannot be the same for everyone. Something labelled fair may not match with your definition. When buying and therefore supporting a product and company, it is important to ask questions and understand how and why they were produced.
Some definitions of fair trade:
An ethical jewellery business involves responsible sourcing of materials, responsible studio practices and transparent branding that communicates your commitment to ethical making.
Why Make Ethically?
Ethical making is more than just a ‘feel good’ thing to do. Growing numbers of companies and public bodies are addressing the negative impacts of global industries and consumers are increasingly interested in the ethical standing of products.
In a 2018 Nielsen report on consumption patterns, it was reported that 81% of respondents to a global survey feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment, with the millennial age group coming in as the biggest supporter (85%).
Ethical jewellery is a market that targets these consumers. Ethical jewellery brands are now more than ever, marketable and profitable. Research into how to connect with these consumers shows that transparency and authentic branding is key.
Although there may be challenges for makers, such as the stability of supply of ethically sourced materials and higher costs, the benefits outweigh these. Commercial benefits include:
- Ability to leverage differentiation in the market;
- Retention of customers who are concerned about provenance and;
- Increased value of product, through which makers can meaningfully communicate to their customers.
There is a higher emotional value in a piece of jewellery with an origin story that reflects its symbolic meaning. Jewellery is often purchased to symbolise special moments and relationships, such as weddings and birthdays. Each piece of jewellery tells a story that adds meaning to those moments and it is important that the symbolic value of the piece matches this. If the story behind a piece of jewellery includes the unfair treatment of communities and environmental destruction, the symbolic value of the piece can be tarnished.
Being able to tell the origin story of your work with pride will be meaningful for you and your customers. The ability to show how your product has made a positive impact on people whose livelihoods depend on the supply chain will increase the emotional value of your product and brand. Increasing the emotional value of your product also means increasing the economic value because people are attracted to luxury products with meaningful stories.
Ethical consumers represent a growing market.
According to the 2016 Ethical Consumer Markets Report there was an average 8.5% growth in total ethical sales, which had been growing for 13 years prior, with 53% of the UK population choosing to avoid buying products/services because of their ethical reputation.
As consumer awareness increases, your efforts to ensure your work is ethically sourced and made can help your business succeed. A brand based on meaningful ethical policies gains customer brand recognition and loyalty. Ethical consumers are more invested in who they purchase from compared to traditional buyers. They’ve done their research and know what they want.
Sourcing materials responsibly will help limit the harmful effects of mining industries, including:
- Environmental degradation through water pollution, harm to aquatic life, and damage to landscapes and ecosystems;
- Human rights violations on mining sites and in mining communities;
- Use of child and forced labour;
- Health and safety risks such as poisoning from unsafe handling of toxins, over-exhaustion from strenuous work, and injury caused by accidents and;
- Prevalence of violence in mining communities related to the trade of conflict minerals.
Banner Image Credit: Ute Decker