Does “For Cause” Make It Ethical?Rebecca Miller
September 27, 2019
If a brand is “for cause” does that automatically make it ethical? Because a garment “gives back” is it fair trade?
The short answer is NO. With the increasing number of companies whose products include a donation to any number of causes, it’s easy to classify them all as ethical or even fair trade. If the item itself is not ethically manufactured, no donation to a U.S. charity when it’s sold makes up for the cost to the hands that made it in the first place. Too many for cause businesses negotiate lower costs for their products so they can afford to give back. That low cost of goods adversely affects the makers. In the same way that consumers are upset because companies pass higher tariffs onto them, manufacturers can only offer lower costs by keeping workers’ wages low or using lower quality, or questionably sourced raw materials.
Nowhere is this more true than in t-shirts. Of the billions of t-shirts sold in the U.S. every year, millions of them are for some kind of cause. Fundraisers, events, give back graphics, awareness messages and more – most of the time the seller wants the cheapest tee possible in order to maximize profits and therefore the donation to the cause.
But at what cost? Think of this irony: A U.S. non-profit is set up to provide education to the poor in Bangladesh, Haiti, India, etc. – noble cause for sure! The non-profit creates a cool graphic and sells tees to raise money. Also a great idea. However, thousands of people are employed for pennies a day in these countries sewing tees. Their wages are so low that they can’t afford healthcare, a clean home or an education for their kids. It’s not unrealistic to think that the tee the organization sold to support education in those countries was actually made by the parent of a child the money raised will be used to educate. But super inefficiently because of organizational overhead. Instead, if that parent was paid a fair wage to make the shirt, they could afford to educate their own child eliminating the need for charitable funds. Instead, that non-profit could invest in educating and supporting the teachers to make sure the education the parents are paying for is the highest quality available.
We hope the next time you get ready to purchase a for cause item, you’ll ask how it was manufactured. That you’ll demand better from the company selling it.
We know it seems counter-intuitive to pay more for a garment when trying to raise as much money as possible by selling it. We’ve had several proof of concept partners who have proven that when they could say the shirt itself is giving back before any message is printed on it, they actually sell more shirts and raise more money even with a higher cost of goods. When the entire product is ethically made, customers respond and find increased value in the purchase.
At GOEX, there’s nothing we love more than a customer who tells our story as part of their sales strategy and then calls to tell us how much more money they made as a result! But don’t just listen to us, here’s one success story!
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