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Shaping an ethical industry in Australia - Ethical Clothing Australia's history

Our accreditation program has been protecting and upholding the rights of Australian garment workers and helping local business to comply with workplace laws since the year 2000.

Ethical Clothing Australia was created in response to rising concern about the exploitation of Australian garment workers, particularly of outworkers (otherwise known as homeworkers) in local supply chains. Businesses that were doing the right thing were being tarnished by the poor practices of other operators and local retailers and manufacturers were seeking a solution to recognise those that were adopting ethical practices.

The Accreditation Program

The accreditation program was established under the leadership and collaborative efforts of the local Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) Union (then known as the TCFUA), and businesses and employer groups from the local industry including the Australian Industry Group (AI Group) and the New South Wales Business Chamber.

After a lengthy development period a ‘Code Of Practice’ was created to guide the accreditation program. Originally three variations were created separating retailers, manufacturers and sportswear. It was developed as a means for local TCF businesses to demonstrate that they are compliant with Australian workplace laws.

The accreditation body started with two part-time workers and received its first application in November 2000. The program was then originally launched as the ‘No Sweatshop Label’ at an official public event in 2001.

In 2010 the program was re-branded as Ethical Clothing Australia following feedback from stakeholders on the need to modernise the organisational name and the certification trademark. As the local industry has changed in the past twenty years the organisation has also adapted, and the accreditation of manufacturers has become a major focus of work.

Key aspects of the program have remained the same since it was created. To take part in the program businesses must voluntarily sign-up and commit to an independent audit (undertaken by the Union as part of the Service Level Agreement) to ensure that all workers including outworkers/homeworkers and any contractors are meeting their obligations under the Award and that the workers are receiving the appropriate pay, entitlements and working in a safe environment.

Once successfully accredited, businesses are able to use the Ethical Clothing Australia certification trade mark on their Australian made products and across marketing and promotions. To remain accredited a business must take part in the audit each year.


A Joint Union, Employer & Industry Collaboration

Ethical Clothing Australia is an example of how industry, employers and unions can work together to create and deliver a robust program that supports an ethical local industry. The accreditation program’s history shows that it has been a trailblazer in developing a response to protecting and advocating for the rights of garment workers. There is no equivalent accreditation program that applies the same level of rigour and utilises the trade union as part of the process nationally or internationally.

The need for an accreditation program and auditing remains as strong as the day it was created. Non-compliance, exploitation and unsafe work practices continue to occur in the local industry. Ethical Clothing Australia’s program continues to provide a platform to profile and showcase businesses that are doing the right thing by the workers in their local supply chains.

Timeline: The Accreditation Program


Two part-time staff are engaged to manage Australia’s first ethical accreditation process for textiles, clothing and footwear industry.


Australian Defence Apparel (now known as ADA) becomes the first business to apply for accreditation. ADA remains accredited to this day.


The accreditation process adopts the official trademark of the 'No Sweatshop Label' and is publicly launched in Melbourne.

2001 - 2008

Various resources were developed to grow the program and aid workers in the industry and to guide local businesses on their legal obligations.


The Federal Government commits funding to the No Sweatshop Label accreditation program.


The Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) brand launches, replacing the No Sweatshop Label.


The Federal Government withdraws funding for ECA.


The Victorian Government announces two years of funding to ECA.


The Victorian Government announces three years of funding to ECA.


ECA celebrates 20 years since the first business applied for accreditation and launches the inaugural Ethical Clothing Australia Week.


The Federal Government commits funding to Ethical Clothing Australia.