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.

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 development:

Integrated Network for Social Sustainability, Definitions 

UNESCO, Culture and Human Rights 

United Nations 2015 Sustainable Development Goals 

United Nations General Assembly 2017 Reports on Social Development 

Ethical jewellery and silverware are made with metals that are sourced responsibly and have been traded fairly.

Fair Trade.

The terms fair trade, fair-trade or ‘fairly traded’ are typically used to mean economic justice for people that are historically taken advantage of by companies. However, these terms are used broadly 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.

Fairtrade International is a non-profit organisation, represented in the UK by the Fairtrade Foundation. Fairtrade International or FLO (Fairtrade Labelling Organisations) sets the Fairtrade standards, monitors relations between producers and trading bodies, supports producers and licenses the Fairtrade mark. Their standardised regulations must be maintained by registered farms/mines to receive the Fairtrade certification. This means that when a product has the Fairtrade symbol, signalling adherence to the Fairtrade standards, the consumer can trust its producers were treated and paid according to Fairtrade’s standards. 

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?

Focusing on ethical making is more than just a ‘feel good’ thing to do. Growing numbers of groups and events are highlighting the negative impacts of the industry, so it is more important than ever to be part of this movement. Consumers are increasingly interested in provenance and are taking that into account when making purchases and young buyers in particular.

study on millennial consumption by culture marketing agency Inkling found that 70% of millennials say they take a brand’s ethics and values into account when considering a purchase. The demographic band of ‘First Jobbers’ were found to specifically care about third party accreditation of ethical practices such as Fairtrade ingredient sourcing (38% vs. 30% average) as well as brands empowering/helping communities (33% vs. 26% average) compared to other life stages.

 Ethical jewellery can be both marketable and profitable, with the ethical consumer market growing every day. 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 connect 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 products have made a positive impact on people whose livelihoods depend on the supply chain and how you have worked to limit any environmental impact will increase the emotional value of your products. Increasing the emotional value of your products also means increasing the economic value because people want to buy products that have a meaningful story.

Ethical consumers represent a growing market.

Growing market for ethical products.

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 in the following ways:

  • 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
  • Prevalence of violence in the mining community related to the trade of conflict minerals.

Banner Image Credit: Karen Westland