Is anyone else feeling relieved to have survived the consumer discount frenzy that is Black Friday/Cyber Monday?
Loskey did not join the fray. But we didn’t completely sit on the sidelines either. Instead, we decided to turn Black Friday into Give Back Friday. The offer? To donate 10% of our sales from Black Friday through to Christmas to #projecthrive, the sewing centre set up by our partner, Sonica Sarna, to give at-risk women in Delhi fair and safe employment. The money we raise will go to the provision of new training manuals, lighting and equipment for the centre.
We are proud to work with Sonica Sarna and #projecthrive -- fairtrade and ethical partners that give women the opportunity to have agency in their own lives through economic empowerment. Giving a little back to support the mission is the least we can do over this holiday period because working with fairtrade and ethical partners really matters. And here’s why:
The Reality of Working in the Apparel Industry
Before understanding how critical it is to work with ethical partners, we first need to explore some of the dark truths of fashion workers. In many Asian nations, the minimum wage for workers in the apparel industry is less than half of the living wage in those countries. If that weren’t bad enough, many employers in the sector do not even adhere to these minimum wage requirements. In fact, non-compliance with minimum wage is as high as 59% in India. This effect is further heightened by gender. In Pakistan, non-compliance for minimum wages is 27% for men, but 87% for women. But in most of these countries, women represent more than 70% of the apparel workforce.
In reviewing these stats, it suddenly becomes clear how some high street retailers are able to sell a £5 t-shirt. Is it because they are reducing their own margins? No. It is because somewhere along the supply chain a fair price is not being paid for goods or services. More often than not, it is the workers who are shortchanged. In the words of Lucy Siegle, ‘Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere, is paying.’
Respect and Care
However, fairtrade is not simply about paying a fair price for goods and services. It is also about the overall well-being of the workers. That means both treating them with respect and ensuring their working conditions are safe.
Safety has not always been a priority for apparel manufacturers trying to churn out the latest knock-offs from the catwalk as cheaply as possible. As a result, there have been some tragic consequences. In April 2013, the Rana Plaza building, which housed several garment factories in Bangladesh, collapsed killing 1,134 workers. The building had not been designed for use as a factory – it was intended as a space for shops and offices. The heavy machinery required for apparel manufacturing led to structural damage to the building, ultimately leading to its collapse. Several well-known high street brands, including Mango, Primark and Benetton, manufactured at Rana Plaza.
The tragedy shone a bright light on the mortal danger to some apparel workers. As a result, there is an ever-increasing demand for supply chain transparency driven by organisations such as Fashion Revolution, set-up in the aftermath of Rana Plaza. However, the ongoing demand for fast fashion means that many brands continue to cut corners at the expense of workers’ safety
Ethical Trading Initiative
For all of these reasons, we are proud that our partners adhere to the Ethical Trading Initiative. Set up 20 years ago – 15 years before Rana Plaza – the initiative was started by a coalition of unions and NGOs to codify the rights of workers in the apparel industry globally. In short, the ETI Base Code states that:
Living in the UK, it is easy to become distanced from the realities that drive the need for this code – that half of the world’s population lives on $2 per day; that 21 million people remain victims of forced labour. It’s a stark reality, and one that we should all consider when tempted to buy that £5 t-shirt on the high street.
Shopping for the holidays
I started this post with my sense of relief that Black Friday/Cyber Monday was over, but the truth is that the Christmas shopping season has only just begun. At Loskey, we are celebrating by giving back and supporting the development of our fairtrade partners.
However, every one of us can support fairtrade by being mindful of how we shop. We have the power to vote with our money and support the brands that are doing right by their workers. Let’s make the season of giving not just about our own family and friends, but also about the families and friends of the people who make our gifts.