Recent news revealed that many major retailers purposely withheld payment from their makers for garments already made. The reason cited by industry leaders was setbacks caused by COVID-19. The work had been done. The garments were ready to ship yet thousands of makers were left high and dry. There is a word for this exact predicament - slavery. The fashion industry has benefited from the suffering of others long before the pandemic. Enough is enough.
Our makers deserve better.
Behind every item you purchase there are living, breathing human beings. Just like you they wake up in the morning and go to work. They dream of providing for their families and yearn to be empowered in their communities. Just like the consumer, the maker has the right to a healthy work environment, a fair wage, and dignified work.
Arguably, one of the biggest challenges with Fair Trade business is convincing the world to accept those few extra dollars on the price tag. We are conditioned to paying undercut prices, and change is hard to accept — especially when that change is not a tangible difference to the consumer but instead, a tangible difference to the producer.
Those few extra dollars empower producers, who commonly get taken advantage of, to set prices within the framework of the true cost of labor, time, materials and sustainable growth. This is the motivation behind the fifth principle that GOEX and other Fair Trade Federation members must follow: Pay promptly and pay fairly.
In addition to ensuring not just a working wage but a livable wage Fair Trade enterprises strive to support safe and empowering working conditions.
“Fair Trade means a safe and healthy working environment free of forced labor. Throughout the trading chain, Members cultivate workplaces that empower people to participate in the decisions that affect them. Members seek to eliminate discrimination based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, age, marital, or health status. Members support workplaces free from physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal harassment or abuse.” — Fair Trade Federation
We deserve better.
Can you truly feel good about wearing exploitive materials? Of course you can’t! However, we have sustained a way of life where it’s easy to add an item to your cart with little or no consideration for how it got there. Having an appealing product that was affordable may be enough to secure a sale but what impact does it have on the quality of life of those who make and on the planet? The conversation of how we can best connect the maker to the consumer continues.
Sustainable, ethically made products and education have become much more accessible than they were 20 years ago. With the rise of the internet and social media the fashion revolution has grown from a tick on a to-do list to a worldwide movement. From red carpet walkers to mindful bloggers, people are ready to remove the blinders and make purposeful purchases. It’s so amazing that we’ve come this far and we can be hopeful for even more progress.
The Journey ahead.
Let’s face it, monitoring justice, equity, and sustainable development in trade structures is an ever evolving matter. There are many wonderful organizations advocating for accountability and dignity in commerce. Organizations such as the Fair Trade Federation have worked tirelessly to educate consumers and to advocate for workers. We are proud members of the Fair Trade Federation. The means we and the federation share the same ideals of fair, environmentally conscious business practices. By building our mission around the nine Fair Trade principles we can not only hold ourselves accountable but lead by example in order to influence real, lasting change.
Being a Fair Trade enterprise is a continued, conscious effort that requires constant introspection and full transparency. This journey is not only important for the makers and the planet. You have a big part to play too. You have the ability to change lives through a simple purchase decision. Perhaps most importantly, your partnership sets an example in the marketplace that ethical commerce can affect systemic bottom-up change through the dignity of work. They say, “it takes a village.” We say it takes the world. It’s a big dream but with every contribution we make together big dreams come true.
Follow the story.
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