What does it mean to be ‘Made in Britain’?
Louise Morton – BeeBooBuzz
Apple are quite famous for this. In case you haven’t noticed, their products all say ‘Designed in California’ and they are championed as an brilliant example of a successful American company.
Of course, as we all know, their products may be designed in the US but they are made in China, and the ethics around this have been questioned more than once, as well as the working conditions in the factories their products are produced in. In recent years, there’s been a resurgence in interest and demand for British products.
The union flag on a brand or product is often synonymous with high quality and standards, so it becomes very valuable. There’s also been an increased focus on the ethics of fast fashion, including the working conditions in overseas factories and the price other people pay for our desire to have cheap clothes. So how British is that product or brand and how do you know?
When I was starting my children’s wear brand, someone advised me to manufacture abroad, because it’s cheaper, but finish the products off in the UK so I could still label them as ‘British made’. As a consumer, how would you feel if you bought from a British brand, only to discover the item was actually produced elsewhere? (Needless to say, I didn’t go for that option!)
The other end the scale
I spoke to a UK manufacturer who wouldn’t label the item as British unless the fabric and labels were also sourced and made in the UK. Is this realistic or necessary? Not all raw materials or products are made or produced in the UK. For example, we don’t have the right climate to grow cotton, so however hard I try, my products are never going to be 100% British. Why does it matter? As well as being associated with good quality, buying British also ensures the products are ethically manufactured and the workers are paid a decent wage, due to the laws and regulations we have in this county. It also often means products are likely to be more environmentally friendly as they will have a lower carbon footprint than those transported in from abroad.
What’s also important is that when you buy a truly British-made product, you’re not just supporting that one company, you’re supporting the entire supply chain behind it. Consider their suppliers for raw materials, packaging, labelling, fulfilment, possibly also their support services such as accountants, IT services, and marketing support. This is not about saying everything you purchase should be British, that wouldn’t be possible! But an increased focus on ethics and transparency can only be a good thing. The problem is, at the moment, there is no agreed definition or standard of what constitutes a British-made product, so it’s down to companies to be honest with consumers and for consumers to ask the questions and do the research.
Many smaller brands and companies, especially those with an ethical focus, will include an ‘About us’ page, (check mine) or similar, to explain where their products are produced. Read the detail carefully, as sometimes people will use Apple’s trick of saying ‘designed in the UK’ or ‘British brand’, which just means it’s a UK registered company and managed from here, not that all their products are made here. As always, you need to read the small print.
A great site to check out is Make It British – a body created to support British manufacturing and promote truly British brands. If all else fails – ask them! If a company has gone to the effort to find and work with British suppliers and manufacturers, they’ll be happy to talk shout about it too!
This article, from The Guardian, is a good read.