Honest basics is a company that is determined to make “fair fashion easy and accessible for everyone”. They prioritize simple design, avoid selling complicated prints, fabrics, packaging etc, in return for accessible sustainability. Honest Basics’ supply chain is simple – they produce in factories in India and Bangladesh, ship to their warehouse, and send it straight to the customer. They do not use any agencies, wholesalers, or retailers to avoid extra mark-ups. Overall, though, I find some transparency issues in a generally sound business model. As such, I award honest basics two stars out of three.
The most important takeaway from Honest Basics is that they only use sustainable materials. They grow organic cotton themselves that is much healthier for the environment, includes no herbicides and pesticides, and requires the use of less resources to grow it. For example, this organic cotton uses up to 91% less water than normal cotton. Following production, Honest Basics uses low-waste and plastic-free packaging. Then, every order is shipped in a climate neutral way, through the DHL GoGreen program.
All their products are GOTS-certified "organic" – which means that the environmental impact of Honest Basics’ production (cotton fields) is greatly reduced. The GOTS-certification is one of the most difficult to achieve, because it forbids many of the worst practices that are used in the industry today - such as cotton waste. All steps between the cotton field and Honest Basics work are checked and certified by independent agencies. Due to this certification, most hazardous chemicals in the supply chain are forbidden and not used. For example, the pesticides that are normally used in cotton farming – which are unhealthy for cotton farmers – are forbidden. Unfortunately, Honest Basics do at times use plastic – albeit compostable – for their clothing. In my eyes, this defeats the most appealing part of Honest Basics: that is, sustainable every-day clothing.
Honest Basics prides themselves on producing “ethically and transparently”. Their partner-factories are found in India and Bangladesh and are chosen on certain sustainability criteria. Honest Basics claims that they have different type of questions when choosing factories. Firstly, which certifications do they offer and are they up to date? Secondly, does the factory seem “genuinely concerned about producing in a sustainable way”? And lastly, what are their plans for the next years? These, in my eyes, seem like purposefully vague questions that cannot be independently verified. Indeed, Honest Basics visit the factories to ensure that the working conditions are up to their par and are all GOTS-certified. Yet, once again – these are not verified by anyone else, bar the GOTS certification that caters only for textile-based products and the general International Labour Organization’s standards. The only mention on the website about a specific set of standards is that Honest Basics were “positively surprised by how well organized most factories are and how serious they for example take safety measures”. A neat feature, though, is that they publish photos of their factories for customers to openly see. These look clean and well-kept, with spaces for workers to comfortably labour – once again, though, these may be perceived or staged differently to their usual state.
Honest Basics also put forward an argument against criticism that they produce their products in Bangladesh or India. They argue that their partner-factory provides safe work and stable income to “over 5.000 people directly and many more indirectly”. As such, they provide a positive impact on “some of the poorest, uneducated people in one of the poorest countries of the world”. This argument does generally make sense – if working conditions are found to be humane, and general standards and wages ethical. Since we only know that they match the guidelines of the International Labour Organisation – and nothing more than this – we cannot know for certain that this argument is true.
Honest Basics have a broader social, economic, and environmental goal of making sustainable fashion accessible to every consumer. That is an aspirational goal indeed. In their path to achieve this aim, Honest Basics attempts to adopt a high level of transparency, as well as innovative ideas to keep costs and prices low. In addition to that, they pride themselves on using only sustainable materials. Yet, their broader social goals remain unclear. We do not know what their values are in terms of rights of minorities, racism, sexism, and discrimination in the countries in which they operate. We are forced to trust them to keep their factory standard high, without seeing more than only the GOTS-certification to back it up. Overall, though, Honest Basics generally focuses on the innovative idea to make sustainable clothing affordable and accessible.