Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ethics and what they mean for YOU

Please note, this blog post was written mid 2012 and published on the Kanga Collective blog. It is not a new post, while the KC blog is down, I have re-posted it here. Thank you!

Despite what you might think, the subject of business ethics is real and thriving.

Whether you realise or not, it affects you.

The industry of ethics is profound, with many a student and scholar debating on the topic. Ethics are important because they imply an investment in what a vendor/business has vested personally into their venture. Ethics are a code of conduct that you, as a member of the public can rely upon when dealing with your ethical vendor.

Now I am by no means a scholar. So to me, ethics are simple – they are doing what is ‘right’.


Something you can stand beside without fail – because you believe it.

So, let us discuss – What are Ethics, and What do they mean to You?

I propose a suggestion or two. Of course. I have a big mouth and all 

a/ All behaviour is considered professional.

by this I mean that at all times the vendor is courteous and humble with customers.

b/ Respect design ownership and jurisdiction

Ok, we are now moving into ‘private vendor land’ here – this is the stuff that the public don’t and shouldn’t worry about. I’m talking about industry ethics here and what they mean so the topic has to be approached.

Design ownership – is there an awesome design feature on another carrier that you are just itching to recreate? Even in your own way? You can do it just that 10% different, so it is ok, right??

No. Don't. It just is not O.K. 

Designers work really really hard to bring innovation and the most disrespectful thing anyone could do is to steal it. And to put it bluntly, it is theft. IP and Copyright Law protects such things. Pretending that you came up with the idea – and even if you *did* remarkably think of the idea – the fact remains. If it was done by someone first, the idea is NOT yours. Despite what many think, copying is not flattery or flattering, and it is hands down, not cool.

There is an interesting argument here – I personally have had it thrown at me – if a product functions/appears different and WILL NOT BE CONFUSED with another, by the general public, then it is innovative and different. In our industry we have coined our own terms for certain parts of our carriers – the Hybrid Strap is synonymous with Bamberoo, the Wing Strap or Wrap Restyle is mine – Beetlebums. And there are so many others. Respecting (as a Vendor) what other Vendors have creatively named their innovations is pertinent – and it shows respect when one understands this. Just because it might not be trademarked, it isn't ok to use it. Ethically.

The internet has changed trading a lot – and shown the faults in jurisdiction quite significantly. There are specific examples where the belief that a certain protection covers in a blanket fashion has been detriment to the Vendor/s cause. It is worth noting too that it is illegal in many places to claim to have a patent pending when you don’t. I’ve learned a lot about this topic and it would bore the pants off you, let me tell you. But I can say that there is honestly very few inventions (which is what a patent covers) in the babywearing industry to be had. Innovations – sure, but actual INVENTIONS – nope. And if there is. Go ahead and protect yourself because there are unscrupulous people out there who will do anything for a buck, steal your invention/innovation and run with it.

To conclude I say simply –

Don’t borrow nor hinder.

Don’t borrow another’s design or innovation. At all. Ever.

Don’t belittle another’s creativity. There is nothing to fear from others that are innovating, it propels your industry and empowers your own product. If you feel threatened then you probably need to look at your own ability to innovate, and decide at this point whether you are an innovator or follower. It’s OK to be a follower!

Do – respect your customers at all times. They might not always be right but they are the ones that keep your bread on the table – and they are people too. Treat every one as equals.

I am going to bring up safety now.

This is a BIG topic for me. It is a no-brainer. There is nothing that will hold me back when it comes to unsafe carriers. I will PSA them, I will recall them and have in the past. There is nothing that I gain from that – I have replaced slings before because of a certain makers incredibly flawed design (with help from our wonderful community donating funds, and me my time). That took time from my business. And family. Which shows how important safety is to me. If it isnt to you, as a Vendor, then go make something like nappies or t-shirts, because babies lives are more important than yours. And this particular arena isn’t for you if you don’t feel the same way.

There are cardinal rules when making baby carriers – and every Ethical Vendor would do well to heed each and every one.

a/ construction should be safe – using quality thread, securing all straps properly, using bottom weight fabric. I don’t want to turn this article into a sewing lesson but the ‘cardinal rules’ are easy to find using Mr Google.

b/ testing your product. The ONLY way that you can be sure that your product is safe is by testing it – and only over time will you know just how safe your carrier is. Remember that your product will likely circulate amongst many families, and needs to stand the test of time.

c/ if the quality of your carrier is questioned, then respectfully deal with it. Even if it is five years down the line. Just because you might not make that item any more doesn’t mean that the person who owns it deserves to feel that their baby is unsafe.

I have always stood strong within my own ethical core. I would never, ever want anyone, anywhere confusing my product with anyone elses. I have poured my heart and soul into my work and I know I have designed something really special. I love it.

It is my baby.