The purpose of our Ethical Framework is to create the foundation and set the expectations we have for our collaborating brands and artisans; to ensure goods on The Together Project Marketplace are produced in a manner that is socially and environmentally conscious, using the highest quality materials and following the highest ethical standards in production. Importantly, we additionally seek out brands and artisans that are not only producing ethically but giving back to their communities in tangible ways and creating a positive impact through their businesses. In this framework, we aim to define not only our sustainability standards but our capacity for measuring impact.
In the early stages of The Together Project, this framework will serve as a guidance of principles. As we progress, we aim to be able to track and report the progress of our brands through our annual Impact & Transparency Report, beginning in 2022, where we will present the measured efforts against the standards laid out in this framework.
The Together Project has framed our goals for impact in communities across the world through the lens of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We aim to work with brands and artisans whose focus lies in not only ethical production, but the tangible giving back to local communities.
In the next year, as we increase our network of like-minded vendors, our goal is to highlight the brands going the extra mile; sustainable and ethical production AND measurable impact on the ground. We will be formalising our impact reporting methodology and growing our team with the sole focus of expanding, enhancing and reporting the impact efforts effectively, as we feel it is this aspect of our vendors that sets us apart from other online sustainable retailers.
We look forward to adding to this section as we progress and are able to measure the impact more formally with our vendor partners. More to come in this space, stay tuned!
In the meantime, we invite you to explore some of the impact efforts some of our partners are already working on, a taste of the type of work we aim to represent as we become a truly global platform for good.
We seek out brands whose purpose is to do good both in the community they are working in while also showcasing the local talents and craft of a particular place. Brands highlighting the preservation of an indigenous art form or craft technique must be at least partially owned by the community where the craft originates. We give priority to Women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA-owned businesses as we aim to be a platform for groups that can oftentimes be underrepresented in the design world.
Knowing the full depth of one’s supply chain is to us a cornerstone of sustainable business practices. Understanding where products are made and by whom allows for our vendors to be able to adequately monitor the working conditions of their employees and to be able to meet their needs for safe conditions and a living wage.
We define living wage in line with the Global Living Wage Coalition as:
“The remuneration received for a standard workweek by a worker in a particular place sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for the worker and her or his family. Elements of a decent standard of living include food, water, housing, education, health care, transportation, clothing, and other essential needs including provision for unexpected events.”
This is not the same as ‘minimum’ or a ‘fair’ wage, both terms which are often used interchangeably when describing the payment of workers in an ethical way. We understand ensuring the payment of an actual living wage is one of the more complex and challenging aspects of production within global supply chains, but we challenge our vendors and partners to meet that threshold. In this regard, educating and guiding our vendors towards a better understanding and capacity to implement a living wage in their supply chains is something we plan to make a key aspect of our vendor outreach program and a fundamental aspect of our business practices.
More information on the importance of defining living wages can be found here.
Here we will define the stages of production and our expectations of what is traced by our vendors. Different design sectors define their supply chain differently and can have varying amounts of tiers in their production. For example, fashion is often considered to have the final, where the garment is assembled and finished, second, where actual fabrics and components of the product are dyed and manufactured, and then the first stage, the raw material production. Jewellery, on the other hand, can often have more as the tiers of production are broken down into smaller components encompassing mining, refining, trading, and final manufacturing. Even still, there will be instances within home goods categories, particularly those made by a small group of local artisans, that may only consist of two stages of production; raw material to final production, as a product such as a woven basket or bag may be produced in an area where local plant material is harvested and turned directly into a product with little other external inputs.
The Together Project expects our vendors to be able to define at the very minimum their final stage of production, including country, factory/workshop location and name, and ideally a breakdown of employees at their facilities. As we move ahead, progressing towards the ability to achieve full traceability within their supply chains and to make that information public is of the utmost importance to us.
While we speak of being able to trace production from final assembly to raw materials, we understand the ambiguity in defining this given the variations in supply chains. Additionally, there is the aspect of the size and scale of production and how we determine the efforts being made by a particular vendor. Additionally, we acknowledge that different sizes of production facilities may end up occurring across different tiers in the supply chain.
Large Factories- more than 100 workers. Vendors working with factories of this size or smaller should at the minimum be working with accredited certifications and auditing bodies with the desired capacity to publish the results and remediation efforts of their auditing. Mandatory code of conduct.
Small Factories- 20- 100 workers. Vendors should also be working ideally here with certifications and have a formal statement regarding workers’ rights. Depending on the size of the factory and the depth of the formal statement, no certification but proof of regular visiting and collaboration with managers to ensure workers’ rights is a must.
Workshops and Ateliers- less than 20 people. Vendors should have a formal statement and proof of visiting these sites.
Homeworkers- Those employed from their homes to conduct commission-based and often piece-meal priced work. Vendors working with homeworkers should be able to prove that pay is being delivered in a timely and consistent manner, and that there are methods to ensure safety and fairness in this production method. A formal statement on workers’ rights should directly reference this and ideally, there should be vendor and producer cooperation with a recognised third party to ensure fair treatment.
Exceptional vendors and their producers will have proof of participation in initiatives emphasising fair trade principles, worker empowerment, and provide proof of additional worker benefits such as financial training, education, healthcare, childcare etc. as examples. See below in Certifications List and Required Documents for more information.
How products are designed and manufactured have a great impact on the sustainability of a particular product. The two major design principles and business models we stand behind is Circularity and Slow Design. Defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation:
“A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.”
Circularity aims to simultaneously minimise the use of raw materials in production while also keeping goods from ending up in a landfill as long as possible through the ability to reuse and rethink the materials and objects originally created.
Next, there is the concept of Slow Design, defined deftly as it relates to fashion by The Slow Factory and can be applied to a multitude of design practices:
“Slow fashion represents all things “eco,” “ethical,” and “green” in one unified movement… the ‘slow approach’ intervenes as a revolutionary process in the contemporary world because it encourages taking time to ensure quality production, to give value to the product, and contemplate the connection with the environment.”
Concepts such as designing for emotional longevity, durability, and multi-functionality fall within the Slow Design movement, aiming to design a product or an object that will outlast that of a mass-produced ‘faster’ on, becoming inherently more sustainable in the process.
Within these frameworks, material choices in production become absolutely critical, given the toxicity of most material production and the water and chemical inputs needed. Reducing water usage and wastewater output is critical, as is the overall reduction of elimination of toxic chemicals.
We have created our own Preferred Materials Chart as guidance as most to least desirable in the products our vendors create. Upcycled and recycled materials are our favourite as they reduce or eliminate entirely a generation of raw materials and prevent previously existing material from entering a landfill. There are then the raw materials produced with a higher set of ecological standards to minimise the environmental impact but also increase the overall quality of a finished product, thereby prolonging the use of a product. Lastly, there are the materials we prohibit. The list is not exhaustive and there will be instances where
Sources: MadeBy Environmental Benchmark for Fibres, Higg Materials Sustainability Index, Textile Exchange Preferred Material benchmark
We believe in minimising plastic waste wherever possible, and understand that packaging accounts for huge amounts of plastic waste annually. It is our aim that our vendors place an emphasis on recycled and readily reusable packaging, virgin cardboard with FSC certifications, and compostable poly-bags.
We encourage our vendors to hold certifications whenever possible with regards to environment, chemicals, labour, and animal welfare. Below is a list of some of those applicable to our vendors and the criteria we expect to be met.
For larger brands, we are looking for a Restricted Substance List (RSL) or Manufacturing Restricted Substance List of their own, ideally aligned with ZDHC or REACH principles. For smaller brands, we are looking for certifications listed above and/or a mention of what sort of chemical and wastewater management plan they have in place and any goals or targets they have for the future. For small artisans we are looking more for understanding the materials and quantities being used but understand this may be a harder target to reach in the beginning. This is where TTP sees ourselves being able to offer guidance in the future.
We aim to see for larger brands a formal code of conduct in line with ILO principles. We offer our own as well here. Smaller brands and individual artisans we expect to see a formal statement regarding the working conditions and pay of their employees, as well as aligning with our own. Additionally, for large and smaller brands, we are looking for the following certifications or participation in the following initiatives:
Larger brands using animal products should have a formal animal welfare policy, ideally in line with 4 Paws or Five Freedoms. Smaller brands we are looking for at least a formal statement addressing the animal welfare of the animals in their supply chain. Additionally, the following certifications we hope to see and/or engagement with a relevant animal welfare NGO such as Peta or Cruelty-Free:
ZQ MerinoFor more information, we also suggest this presentation from Textile Exchange on how and why brands should set up an animal welfare policy.