Almost six months ago, I blogged about the EcoTag, a thought experiment in making sustainability factors transparent for clothing purchases. Companies such as Timberland and Patagonia have been working to provide this level of sustainability information online and on clothes labels. And now another company has joined their ranks: they show you the source of their wool right down to the sheep farm.
Check out Icebreaker, a New Zealand company that spins locally-sourced merino wool into technical outerwear. They've developed what they call the "Baacode," which is a unique number associated with each piece of clothing they sell. You go onto their Web site and enter the code to see the exact farm where the wool came from, who runs it, etc. The company also provides information on their general guidelines for manufacturing ethics and animal welfare.
This is definitely a step in the right direction. While they don't reveal the carbon cost of their distribution from New Zealand to France to Germany to Shanghai and then out to retailers, it's great to see a clothing company showing in detail the impact of each phase of their product manufacture.
The only red flag in my mind, while reviewing their site, was how they couched their manufacturing ethics. More specifically, they encourage good working conditions, 3 meals a day, free lodging if necessary, but with regards to pay, they only mandate minimum wage for their workers. Their products are premium and affordable -- a rare combination -- so an incremental increase in the cost of their product lines in return for paying premium wages in the actual manufacturing process would be a worthwhile tradeoff.
Also, the videos are a little too slick. Why not just have a Web cam showing factory conditions in real time? Oh, wait... PR wouldn't like that...