Who is Ethical Clothing Australia?
Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) is an accreditation organisation for the Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) Industry governed by a management committee of made up of TCF employer organisations, individual TCF business and trade unions.
Current management committee members: Australian Industry Group, Council of Textiles & Fashion (TFIA), NSW Business Chamber, Cue Clothing, Jets Swimwear, Pacific Brands and the Textile, Clothing & Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA).
How did ECA come into existence?
In response to on-going concerns about the exploitation of homeworkers in the 1990s, employer representatives and the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) agreed to develop a code of practice for workers in the TCF sector. As a result the Homeworkers Code of Practice was launched in 1996.
In 2001 the ‘No Sweat Shop’ label trademark was launched.
In May 2008 funding from the Commonwealth Government was received to undertake accreditation and further develop and promote the code and the label.
In 2010 in collaboration with industry and union representatives, the ‘No Sweat Shop’ label was changed to the ‘Ethical Clothing Australia’ label.
What does ECA do?
ECA primary responsibility is to assist TCF businesses comply with the Homeworker Code of Practice and related legislation, in particular the Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award 2010.
Businesses are able to apply for ECA accreditation and go through an accreditation process, which is underpinned by compliance audits undertaken by the TCFUA. The accreditation process is designed to assist businesses to map and monitor their supply chains as well as comply with their legal obligations. In addition the ECA fund industry training and education undertaken by the TFIA.
Once compliant, accredited brands are licensed to display the ECA trademark on their Australian-made products, providing consumers and buyers with a way to identify and support ethical Australian-made products.
The ECA is not an industry representative organisation and nor do the ECA engage in lobbying government regarding TCF industry legislation.
How is ECA funded?ECA is largely funded by the Commonwealth Government to assist TCF businesses comply with the Homeworker Code of Practice. The ECA also receive some funding through accreditation fees.
This funding is used to deliver ECA’s accreditation and labelling program, which includes industry liaison, education and support, development of industry resources, compliance checking, staff, office infrastructure, promotions and public awareness campaigns.
What about ECA’s accreditation fees?ECA’s accreditation fees are based on a sliding scale depending on manufacturing circumstances, for example whether work is outsourced. This is because it costs more to check suppliers that have been outsourced than it does if all work is done inhouse. The scale also takes into account the size of businesses.
ECA also has a very low fee for businesses that have been operating for less than three years to assist new and emerging makers, as well as for sole traders.
ECA’s fee’s only recoup a very small part of the costs of accreditation, such as resources, staff time, travel, compliance checking and industry training and education. The rest of this cost is subsidised by government funding.
The support of government funding enables us to keep the costs of accreditation down for the many small businesses that make up the TCF industry.
What has ECA done for the Australian TCF industry?There are currently well over 60 successfully accredited Australian brands and manufacturers, which span a diverse range of product categories; fashion, footwear, school wear, corporate wear, sports wear, infant and maternity wear and work wear.
In addition to accreditation other activities for ECA include referring consumers, brands and manufacturers to accredited companies and award compliant suppliers for purchasing and work, thereby promoting ethical and local business.
In October 2011 ECA launched its first consumer awareness campaign, Meet Your Maker. The campaign aims to educate consumers about the importance of ethical manufacturing in the garment industry and assist them to make an informed choice for shopping ethically. Consumers can trace or ‘meet’ the maker who made their garment, through the use of uniquely coded swing tags which take them to the maker’s own page on the campaign website.
Through ECA’s accreditation program, the TCFUA has undertaken thousands of compliance checks. As a result, more than 6,000 homeworkers have been provided with advice or assistance through the ECA program.
ECA has developed a new Guide to the Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award, which was launched in February 2012. The Guide is written in an easy to read format to help businesses understand how to comply with the law. Given many manufacturers in the industry speak Chinese and Vietnamese, the guide to the Award has also been translated into these languages.