Understanding Ethically Sourced Products


In recent years, words such as ethically sourced, fair trade, organic, and cruelty free have been trending and acknowledging the issues behind consumption and coming up with ways to solve them have become topics of discussions.

The issues behind our consumption leave devastating results not only to the environment, but to the poor and vulnerable people around the world who are fulfilling our fast trending demands.

An example of this is the spike of avocados trends around the world. The demand for avocado has brought people in Mexico, who are the world largest producers of avocado, problematic issues. Avocado farmers are at risk for safety due to gangs and drug cartels’ attention to them for money, while avocado products cause many environmental issues such as lack of water, diversity of food source and deforestation. In other words, our consumption choices have had significant negative impacts on the producers of avocados.

This example above shows that our consumption can affect people behind the scenes, whom we might not even know of. This is why understanding what ethically sourced means and how we can contribute to such sustainable effort/ initiative is important.

What does Ethically Sourced Mean?

When a product is ethically sourced, it means that in the process of manufacturing, the item is obtained with responsibility, in ethical and sustainable ways. This means that products are ensured to have little or no significant negative impact on the society, human and the environment.

Ethically Sourced and Fair Trade : Difference

fair trade ethically source difference
Ethically sourced is when a product is sourced or supplied through means of sustainability, in terms of the item itself, environment and well being of the workers.

Fair trade is to ensure that producers are getting their fair share of money in the process of trading. Most/all fair trade products have a FAIRTRADE mark which shows that they have met a given standard for protection of workers and environment.

While fair trade and ethically sourced goods share some common grounds, ethically sourced products have a wide range of nuance and definition depending on the brand and company and it can be hard to identify, therefore it is recommended that you read through the company’s policy and their background for stating so.

Why is Ethical Sourcing Important?

Ethical sourcing not only protects the environment and society, but the members of the organisation as well. About 24.9 million people globally are under forced labor. Companies can also protect their employees from the risk of going to court due their supply chain having illegal workers.

Moreover, according to a study by Nielsen in 2015, it showed that 66%of consumers are more likely to buy products that are ethically sourced than a company who is not. This means that by ethically sourcing, companies can increase their sales while protecting the environment and people.

How to Tell if Products are Ethically Sourced?

A simple way you can tell if a product is ethically sourced is by looking at brands and companies’ message behind their products, philosophy, values and what their business is about.

If you are looking for more assurance if their products are truly ethically sourced, check for Fairtrade International, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) , Vegan Action, Forest For All Forever, Cruelty Free Forever and other labels that can be proved that their products are ethically sourced. However, it is important to remember that these certifications cost a big sum of money so it might be harder for small businesses to attain such labels.

Another way to ensure that products are ethically sourced is to look at their supply chain and evaluate their ethical sourcing. Companies with transparent background of how and where their products are supplied can allow us to see if the company is sourcing their products ethically. With this information, you can evaluate if the company is truly ethical with their sourcing if they do not have labels to prove stated above.

What is an Example of an Ethically Sourced Brand?

If you are still unsure about what ethical sourcing might mean, here are some popular brands that uphold ethical sourcing.


ethically sourced Patagonia
Patagonia is strived to work with ethically sourced fabric as all of their cotton is certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). They have different programs to support their workers to ensure they fair share of wage as well as adequate living standards.
Patagonia is also moving towards transparency of their supplier and where their products come from. Interesting effort made by Patagonia was that they discourage people from buying their products to reduce consumption by running their ads, with headlines such as “Don’t Buy This Jacket”.


ethically sourced Starbucks

Starbucks can also be considered as an ethically sourced company as 99% of their coffee beans were ethically sourced in 2015 with collaboration with International Conserve. They are also committing to reduce our landfill waste by 50 percent by 2030. Starbucks is focused on sustainability and is a company that ensures responsible business in the society.


ethically sourced hm
H&M has taken positive steps in protecting the environment, launching a sustainable collection, “Conscious” which uses environmentally friendly materials such as recycled polyester and organic cotton. They also have recycle bins for collection of old clothes.


ethically sourced adidas
All of the final stages of production are Fair Labor Association, Workplace Code of Conduct and some of the supply chain in the first and second stage is also certified. This means they have quite a transparent supply chain background with where their products come from. It also uses recycled materials for their products such as 100% recycled Ultra Boost Trainers.

Doing our part in consumption

ethically sourced
Consumption is a big part of our lives. While there are many companies out there to serve our needs, there are some who serve both our needs while doing the best for the environment and the manufacturer. Understanding the different ways companies can contribute to our society is a big step in making companies a responsible supplier as well as us being as a responsible consumer. Let us work together for a better society for all. It’s always good to remember, buying is voting. If you are interested in buying ethically sourced product, check out our article on Thankyou’s edition, “End Extreme Poverty with Thankyou and Daniel Flynn”.

Author: Thiri Zaw Yazawa
Member of Ethical Choice
Started my ethical journey with knowing the truth about pet shops and cafes. Enthusiastic to find interesting ethical products and ideas around the world. Always challenging myself to start small for bigger changes every day because there is no planet B.