I don't have a lot of New Zealand designer clothing, although happy to admit I have unfulfilled shopping spree dreams on occasion.

But I do own two jackets by big Kiwi brands, both more than 10 years old - a World denim jacket and a Trelise Cooper wool coat.

In the news this week were claims that World founder Denise L'Estrange-Corbet had been selling T-shirts made in Bangladesh with a tag saying "Fabrique en Nouvelle-Zelande".

This expose was apparently prompted in part by her criticism of Trelise Cooper's poor rating by Tearfund's Ethical Fashion Report.


So I have dutifully checked the labels of my jackets and they both claim to be Made in NZ - I'd like to believe it is true. But how do we know for sure?

I don't appreciate the creation of doubt in my commitment to the quote: "Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want," (Anna Lappe).

I'm passionate about social enterprise and social procurement because I believe that most of us don't just want a bargain - we want to support employers who are doing the right thing by people and the planet.

Sometimes I question whether the problem is not fake claims of ethical production but actually over-consumption ... always wanting more. Maybe the real answer lies in taking a step back from shopping.

Luckily there are options - we can search for evidence of a truly good business model.

Little Yellow Bird is a homegrown social enterprise offering uniforms and T-shirts with a comprehensive ethical supply chain.

Our drive to have beautiful things seems pretty innate - to me at least. Purchasing a new item of clothing that makes you feel good, particularly something where the worker is paid a fair wage, is a quality product and going to last, is a great way to spend your hard-earned funds in my books.

It's not just clothing manufacturing that comes with an opportunity to apply sustainability thinking. If you're flying somewhere and want to offset your carbon emissions, a brilliant way to do it is via www.ekos.org.nz


It's still affordable - covering the emissions of five return flights Whanganui-Auckland for the Thrive expo earlier this year cost $30.71 in total.

Unrestrained climate change is going to hit not just our pockets but our consumer habits.

This week there was a report on the impacts with the price of pure vanilla extract now more than silver, thanks to another storm knocking back producers in Madagascar.

It makes me wonder whether New Zealand should be exploring vanilla production - cacao too (we need chocolate) - particularly using a social enterprise model to reach us conscious consumers.

Another social enterprise offering a fresh investment opportunity that's gentle on the environment is Hikurangi Enterprises. The demand - including from me - to be part of their first equity campaign to develop a legal NZ medicinal cannabis product caused the PledgeMe website to crash two nights in a row.

We know how tight grant funds are getting, so social enterprise offers the potential to diversify and strengthen income streams. It may also offer the ability to step away from accepting funding associated with often harmful activities like gambling.

We all have an opportunity to be on the right side of history, whether it's something small like choosing ethical fashion or purchasing a carbon offset for your next flight, or something bigger like buying an electric vehicle or shifting your superannuation investment from companies that support coal.

My friends and colleagues at Te Kaahui o Rauru launched a new environmentally friendly product last week - Kai Tahi, a native superfood presented as frozen smoothie drops.

This tasty business is, in part, a response to the iwi's position against seabed mining - it's a step towards sustainable local jobs.

We need to back those who are taking risks and offering us alternatives that are gentle on the environment and kind to people. It's time to be part of the change.

■Nicola Patrick is a Horizons regional councillor, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru, and is part of a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mother of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.