Finding an ethical manufacturer can be a daunting task. The internet is filled with millions of ads on directory websites like Alibaba and Indiamart, along with countless reports of unethical practices and fraud. This leaves us with the question, how can I find an ethical manufacturer and how do I know they walk the walk and don’t just throw up a bunch of empty promises on their website? There are a few options and one that we feel is the best and most applicable.

Use Your Connections
When you are starting your business you turn to your friends and family for all kinds of questions; from legal, to accounting, to what material should my business card be made of. So, why not ask your friends, use your social media, and any other contacts you have access to. Who knows, you might get lucky for example, Aunt Ginny’s might have her own manufacturing set up abroad, and she might be able to put you in touch with reputable factories in China. This is advantageous not only because a referral is one of the most reliable ways to get in touch with a business but you may also get better service because of the personal connection. This all sounds fantastic but be careful. What you consider good quality and what your connection considers quality might not be the same thing and you don’t want an ugly argument at Thanksgiving dinner.

Search Online
There is no question that when researching practically any issue the first thing you should do is google it, finding ethical manufacturing is no different. At the very least this will help you learn the international standards governing ethical manufacturing and some non profits that help police it. Then try localizing your search, this will help you find resources more specific to your needs. One issue with finding a factory online is the lack of accountability you can demand from them, especially when it comes to the labor conditions their workers are subjected to. Sure, you can have production samples made to test the quality of their products but it is hard to get any physical proof of their ethics. Pictures can be staged and any talk about ethics on their site may just be lip service. The only foolproof way of confirming the factories practices is by going on a visit which can be too costly for startups, and adds a significant expense for those that can afford it.

One potential way to solve the proof of conditions problem is by using directory websites some of which vet for safe and ethical labor conditions. Unfortunately, using these websites can be problematic because of the sheer quantity of the selection available which you have to filter down for what feels like ad infinitum. You also have to be wary when working with some of the factories listed on the directories because they may not be as legitimate as the directory believes they are. There are often thousands of factories listed and many may be reputable but there are almost certainly some bad apples mixed in. What is scarier is you often won’t know which you are working with until you have invested at the very least a great deal of time, if not money.

Using a Sourcing Agent to Find the Right Manufacturing Partner
It is no secret to successful business people that to succeed and grow, business owners should outsource their responsibilities so they can concentrate on what they are best and grow their business. In other words, find professionals divide, and conquer. Doesn’t it make sense to have someone who is experienced with manufacturing and sourcing, set up your production for you? Sourcing and manufacturing agents are designed to do just that, our primary goal is to find you a reliable, ethical, and trustworthy manufacturing partner.

A key to finding the right agency is ensuring that they have prevented network of quality manufacturers that check all of the boxes. Those boxes include lead time, quality, price, and ethics among other things depends on the industry your products fall within. Furthermore, the right agency should have their own team on the ground that can personally interact with the manufacturing partner they source for you, to help ensure that your manufacturing runs as smoothly as you deserve. Using the right agent not only helps ensure you receive the best quality, quick lead times, and ethical business partner but it also helps you find that partner quickly so you can start on your production and get your products to market. Yet another advantage of working with a sourcing agent is they often can negotiate lower MOQ than you could along based on their strong relationships with the manufacturers.

One possible critique to using an agent to set up your manufacturing is; What if they set up a backend deal with the factory they source you where you charged more than you have to for your products? Well, thats where working with a reputable sourcing agent is extremely important. One way to ensure that your agent is reputable and trustworthy is to ask if they will be transparent with you throughout the entire process. If your agent is withholding any information from you including the factories contact information, or the original invoices from your manufacturer, that is a big red flag.

When you are trying to find a trustworthy, quality, ethical, and reliable manufacturing partner, a sourcing agency will oftentimes be your best bet. They should have people on the ground to verify that the factory treats their workers and community ethically. The agency should walk you through the whole process from sourcing components to the packaging your products come in, and make sure everything is done on schedule. They make sure your products are to your specifications and that a strong quality control process is in place.

That is a lot to do isn’t it? It is more time and cost effective to hire a sourcing agent. When you do, please think of Rad Sourcing. We will be happy to answer any other questions about the production process. Please reach out to us at or email me directly at [email protected].