Where does ethical responsibility lie: with individuals, brands or the government?

Climate anxiety is a real thing. People increasingly feel a huge responsibility to “do the right thing” and then they are on the receiving end of a lot of confusing information about what the right thing really is. So where does ethical responsibility really lie? With us? Or with the powers above?


At Live Frankly we’ve created a whole community designed to help individuals navigate ethics and sustainability in a global economy that is increasingly destructive.

But let us be very clear, this isn’t to put blame or responsibility at your feet.

Our goal is to help individuals lead happy, fulfilled lives in a way that leaves a minimum – and hopefully positive – impact on people across the globe and the planet as a whole.

Trying to be ethical and sustainable can be overwhelming, progress feels frustratingly slow and we regularly ask ourselves ‘What’s the point?’

The point is this: We don’t believe in slavery. So we don’t buy from brands who have a high chance of using modern slavery in their supply chain.

This usually means new clothes are more expensive, so we buy less of them. So we darn our socks – OK, that’s a lie. We walk around with holes in them, but we are no longer embarrassed to have holes. Consider them holes of honour, if you will.

We also don’t believe in torturing animals. So, we don’t eat meat from farms that grow chickens so fast it’s the equivalent of a three-year old child being 20-stone.

This again means the meat we do eat is more expensive, and again we eat less of it. But the meat we do consume is tastier and healthier.

We do believe in protecting the environment. So we buy from brands who put environmental concerns at the core of their business models. And we do all of this because we are living according to our values and our ethics.

It’s that simple.


It’s absolutely, completely, totally, 100% a brand’s responsibility to make sure their supply chains are ethical and sustainable the whole way through. Without a shadow of a doubt.

The good thing about individuals living according to their values is that it encourages brands to change more quickly so they get to keep our custom, and their profits.

Some call it “consumer power” others “voting with your wallet”. We call it “Living Frankly”. And we wholeheartedly encourage you to vote by supporting the brands we list on our site.

Not wishing to completely alienate everyone we could possibly work with, but it is also advertisers and marketeers and PRs’ responsibility to make sure they are not inadvertently promoting/covering-up/greenwashing slave labour, animal cruelty, devastation of our seas etc.

Marketing is so powerful; it takes a huge amount of willpower to ignore those tempting wiles and seek out alternatives. Just imagine if big brands just used those powers for good. You can take a look at outdoor clothing icon Patagonia for an example.


So, it’s a brand’s responsibility. But they’re only human – sort of – and, naturally, do what most humans do, which is get away with whatever they can. To quote one of our heroes, Lucy Siegle: “They’re marking their own homework.”

There’s a reason we don’t allow kids to do this. It f*cks up their future, because they think they’re being clever in the short term, but haven’t considered the long-term impact.

When it comes to fashion, the Union of Concerned Researchers into Fashion brilliantly sums the situation up: “So far, the [sustainability] mission has been an utter failure… It is important to stress that the industry has spent 30 years trying to fix the old system, and it is getting worse, not better.”

To paraphrase Fashion Revolution’s Orsola De Castro: If the situation wasn’t so serious, it would make us laugh.

What do we want? Legislation! When do we want it? 2019 – when the Parliament published a “Fixing Fashion” report proposing a 1p tax per garment to help curb the throwaway culture, which the government rejected.

Or, now would be good, too.

So where does ethical responsibility really lie?

One thing the Corona virus pandemic has taught is that we are all much more interconnected than we realised.

Yes, systems change needs to come from government and businesses.

But, we each need to live according to our values and hold both businesses and the government to account.

This can be as simple as starting by spending your money with businesses that operate fairly. Genuinely fairly.

About the author

Lizzie Rivera

Lizzie Rivera

Lizzie Rivera is the founder and chief purpose officer at Live Frankly. She has been writing for mainstream publications for 10 years, specialising in sustainability and ethics since 2014.


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