This is Why Ethical Fashion is Important
Cover Image Credit: Neeve— By Elena Picci
In wealthy cities, finding clothing is never a challenge. Basic items such as t-shirts and jeans can be found at any street corner, and are often taken for granted. However, there are many people who put their lives on the line each day in order to create the abundance of clothing that is enjoyed in the global North.
Did you know there are workers that risk their lives each day by entering the factories in which they work?
Did you know that many garment workers still receive salaries that are far below national living wages?
Doesn’t everyone deserve decent wages and working conditions?
The recent scandals of unpaid workers have made it clear. Lives of garment workers are constantly at risk. Now more than ever, fair trade is needed!
Fair trade businesses are committed to honouring worker’s rights, prioritizing the wellbeing of artisans, farmers and manufacturers in their supply chain. It is a business model based on human and environmental well-being (Home of Fair Trade Enterprises).
What is fair trade in the context of fashion?
If a garment is Fair Trade Certified, it means that the employees & producers involved in the supply chain received a fair price for the product or their work.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of fashion brands operate in accordance with fair trade principles.
Why is fair trade not the norm?
The reality is that paying people fairly costs more than we are used to paying. This causes consumers to question why fair trade products are so expensive when they should be asking how non-fair trade certified products are so cheap. Many people avoid asking this question because they know they will not like the answers that they find.
What do fair trade companies do differently?
#Ensure Safe working conditions
Did you know that even today, there are workers that risk their lives by producing clothes?
Take the Rana Plaza collapse, where garment workers were working in a building that had floors illegally constructed. The workers noticed the building was going to collapse but were still forced to work inside. If this business has been fairtrade, 1,134 lives could have been saved (The Guardian).
A fair trade business model makes sure that working conditions comply with local safety standards.
Another point that fair trade businesses make sure to cover is to distribute fair wages. What do fair wages mean? Well, they are usually based on local living wages. The idea of fair wages is to make sure that workers receive at least a salary that will allow them to afford basic necessities. Shouldn’t this be a legal requirement? It sounds crazy but there are many garment workers that are paid less than living wages and need to work overtime in order to cover their basic expenses.
Some ethical brands such as ArmedAngels supported their supply chain workers during the pandemic by committing to keep paying them despite cancelled orders. However, this is not the case for most garment workers. Among those who lost their jobs, is 21-year-old student Waleed Ahmed Farooqui. Farooqui relied on the earnings from his job in the garment industry to pay his university tuition and support his family of seven since his father, a driver, is out of work.
“What else can we do? If this lockdown continues and I can’t get another job, I will have to go out and beg on the streets,” he said. (Bloomberg).
According to a recent article from the New York Times the pandemic has caused global poverty to rise for the first time since 1998, leaving half a billion people in destitution by the end of 2020.
Some fair trade business models create opportunities for marginalized people and communities. They help to boost economic opportunity in areas that need it most.
Moreover, some businesses will re-invest a part of their profits to social projects. Did you know that 92% of Fair Trade enterprises reinvest all of their profit to advance their social goals? (WFTO)
How can you tell if your clothes are fair trade?
It is not easy to tell whether your clothes have been made ethically or not. Unlike the material composition, it is not something that is mentioned on the scratchy label inside of your T-shirt.
However here are 3 possible ways to discover if your clothes are fair trade.
#Familiarize yourself with fair trade labels
If you are lucky, the symbol of an ethical organization or simply the words ‘’Fair Trade’’ could be displayed on the label or on the description tag. Don’t be fooled by Greenwashing — it is important to recognize the certifications that are credible and well-known. The most famous fair trade certifications are:
Yes, there are a lot out there!
If you find a logo that you have never seen or a vague statement about sustainability, a quick google search can ensure it’s not a marketing trap.
For example, ArmedAngels is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) which means they have a strict code of conduct for suppliers in order to ensure that workers conditions are up to code. They audit their suppliers and train the workers with the Fair Wear Foundations in order to ensure that they know their rights.
Shop ethical clothes from ArmedAngels.
#Is the brand certified by a third party?
Go for brands that are certified by an official organization. You can go on the fairtrade certification website in order to see which brand is certified from them. For example, if you go on the official website of Fair Trade , You will see that fashion brand People Tree has been approved.
Another official website you dig into is the World Fair Trade Organization. A brand that you can find on the website and on Renoon is Mayamiko. This brand goes as far as letting the consumer know who made each product.
#Understand your favourite brand’s business model
Certifications and labels may be too costly for start-ups and small businesses. Just because they don’t have the certification doesn’t that they are not ensuring fair working conditions for their workers. There are brands that prefer to give the money that could have been spent on certifications back to their workers. This information can usually be found on a brand’s website.
A great example is Veja, a brand that pays their farmers and manufacturers 30%-100% more than local market rates. They don’t spend money advertising this information, opting instead to dedicate it directly to people in need.
How can you be a Fair Trade Consumer?
The World Fair Trade day falls on May 9th, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it everyday! Since its creation in 2004 by the World Fair Trade Organization, Fairtrade day has never been more important. Don’t you want to make sure the workers behind your clothes are safe during the pandemic?
Here are ideas on what you could do today (and every other day of the year) to create a more ethical world.
#Spread the word
Luckily, nowadays we don’t need to take to the streets to spread awareness, as this would be difficult during COVID-19.
However, in your hand, you have a huge platform to create awareness. It is your smartphone.
And as you know, “with great power comes great responsibility’’. Right, uncle Ben?
Just share the news! It is possible to look stylish while ensuring an ethical way of living for others. You could have more impact than you think.
#Buy Fair Trade
Many are committing to a more sustainable approach to fashion for the post-pandemic period. What if, from now on, you could buy only sustainable clothing? There are many different ways that an item can be sustainable, and fair trade is definitely one of them. Why not commit to buying only ethical clothes?
Just imagine. You will be able to answer all those “I love your dress’’ comments with a cool, ‘’Thanks, it’s fair trade’’.
A fairly paid worker often allows for the support of an entire family. When families are able to thrive, entire communities are lifted out of poverty. By buying fair trade and spreading the word to make fair trade the norm, you can actually help break the cycle of global poverty and create a better world.
Finding sustainable clothes might seem time-consuming. But hey! That’s why we are here! Renoon curates a wide selection of sustainable items that you can trust.