- Ethical Responsibility
Ethical Responsibility | A Personal Statement
Commerce is fundamental to almost every era and society, but the post-industrial age has seen rampant commerce on an unprecedented scale, in what often seems like a zero-sum game: profit being equal to the trail of human and environmental destruction that it leaves in its wake. We're committed to ensuring our own story, from beginning to end, unfolds in the context of an ongoing conversation about our contribution to, and effects upon, the global society.
Olive, like many businesses, began life in personal ambition. This ambition is not a solely commercial one – it’s also a cultural one. It’s deeply satisfying for us to disseminate our own cultural and aesthetic sensibilities, our colour palette, our modest styling, our preference for the natural, the simple and the minimal over the noisy, the show-off, and the try-hard. I hope we’re contributing to a better world, aesthetically and culturally; and, on a personal level, I genuinely want for a fairer world – a world of fair exchange, of equal opportunity, and of equitable distribution of profit.
This is reflected in our supplier relationships, in our management culture, and in every operation within our direct locus of control. In terms of the top layer of our supply chain, this is made inherently easier by the fact that our garments are manufactured within OECD advanced economies with suppliers who are our economic equals, rather than leveraging economic asymmetry in the developing world as the central plank of our business model. Should we later start manufacturing outside of the community of advanced economies, the adoption of commensurate fair trade principles would be at the heart of that shift.
In contrast to many similar enterprises, whose founding values sometimes find themselves compromised by structural changes in executive control due to funding considerations, Olive has remained wholly owned, funded, and managed, by its original founders. However, it would be incomplete of me not to share with you that ours has been a journey of discovery not dissimilar to many of our similarly ethically motivated customers – starting from a desire to achieve uncompromising ethical standards, and ultimately having to face compromises at almost every turn. The commercial world generally, and the fashion industry specifically, is a jungle compared to which the Amazonian rain forest often seems like a well-kept garden.
In such a world of compromise, my own priority has always been the human project. The interests, aspirations, health and future of the people I share the planet with—and in particular those whose lives are in any manner affected by my own decisions and actions—preoccupy me. Others place an equal or greater priority on the welfare of the animal kingdom, and I respect that. Indeed, their concerns are easy to understand; although the Chinese angora farming scandal in 2013 has dominated the popular press, the reality of modern industrial methods of animal husbandry are broadly abominable – PETA have long railed against sheep farming for wool, in a campaign almost identical to the angora exposé except for its success. We’re united with the sane majority that would dearly love to see the entire socio-economic architecture of these farming practices completely dismantled.
At present, it is not always possible for us to penetrate sufficiently deep into our own supply chain to fully ascertain the origin of a yarn, with many textile suppliers robustly unwilling to share commercially sensitive information about their own supply chain with a micro-brand like Olive. Our roadmap to improving transparency throughout the supply chain relies on the strengthening of our existing supplier relationships – itself a natural consequence of our own development and growth. In the meantime, we welcome any product-specific queries – if we can’t guarantee the origin of the raw fabric of a given product, we’ll always tell you as much.
In the modern global economic system, consumer, retailer, manufacturer, and farmer are all interconnected inextricably in a pyramid of ethical responsibilities. Many of our customers are keen to take their responsibility seriously, and expect the same of us. We’d like to reassure those customers that we do share those values and aspirations; this has always been on our agenda, and will strengthen rather than diminish as we grow together.