How can WE change the garment industry?
It's now 7 year since the collapse of Rana Plaza, 6 years since the first season of Sweatshop, and yet there are still plenty of garment workers living- and working under poor conditions.
Since my participation in "Sweatshop - Deadly Fashion", not much have changes for the actually garment workers. What I have seen is an increase of awareness around this issue, more people decide to buy less, or buy second hand, and also more brands are promoting ethical- and ecofriendly clothings.
I often get asked: "What can we do to change this?"
I have many examples of things we, as individuals and consumers, can do to both the ethics- and climate issues in the garment industry, and I would love to share some examples with you.
I'll just start by saying, this is not only the responsibility of the consumers. Personally, I think the big chains have the most responsibility. The clothing industry is a million-dollar industry, so why not take some of the profits and raise the wages of textile workers? Or, how about raising the price of the clothes with only €1? This would have double their payment...
There are also many who believe that the big clothing brands have their own factories. Most of them do not, but have a lease for certain periods. This means that they do not have direct control over what happens at the factories, and unfortunately this is also a way to resign a good deal of responsibility.
In 2015, Anniken and I were invited by H&M to visit one of their factories in Cambodia. Whichever factory we choose. After some conversations with them, we asked for permission to enter the "Tak Son" factory, where H&M's supplier list showed us that they had their production. The day after we sent a message to H&M, they removed Tak Son from their supplier lists, and we got an answer that they no longer had their production there. It was quite a coincidence that the factory list was updated the same day. In the aftermath, they ended the collaboration with Tak Son because it did not follow the "Code of Conduct". Imagine that, instead of staying and actively working to improve working conditions at the factory, they simply choose to leave the "problem" and move their production to another factory. (Watch this episode HERE)
Let's get to it!
Push the big chains When the big clothing brands don't take responsibility, we have to... Imagine that H&M and the other big brands are a bunch of lazy and heavy elephants that do not get over a small heap. They know they can do it, but they don't bother. Then we can help them get started by pushing them in their asses, hehe. This is how I think about the big clothing chains, and I ask myself, "How can I influence the big clothing chains to make a difference?"
Here are some great tips for pushing brands: 1. Go to their Facebook page, and write, "When can I expect workers to earn a living and live off?". If enough people do this, hopefully the chain will realize that consumers are taking this seriously!
2. Send a letter / mail to the clothing chain you think is immoral, and tell them what you think.
Activist Another way to show the big brands that you care, is to engage as an activist in their physical stores. Here are three suggestions on what you can say / do, where you very clearly convey your opinions and values about the textile industry:
1. If you actually need new clothes, then as a rule, always ask some questions on the clothings. "Do you have ethical guidelines?", "Do you know which factory these clothes are made in?", "Do you know if the workers have been paid a living wage to make this?", "Have children made this garment?", "Is this made under good working conditions? ". This way, you make it clear that these are important issues for you when buying clothes, without making the purchase itself too complicated!
2. If you fancy clothes but don't necessarily need them, then ask the same questions as mentioned above. If the cashier does not know the answers to any of the questions you ask (which they often don't): Do not buy the garment. This way you're showing them what's important to you as an consumer.
3. Buy a garment without asking questions. Return to the store the next day and ask if you can get your money back. Say you've seen Sweatshop / read about the textile industry and you don't want to support an industry that is so immoral and bad. Here I can't promise you that you will get the money back, but your message is clear. (Believe me, this is going to be a big talk at H&M, if many people suddenly return garments because they don't want to buy clothes made under poor working conditions!)
Boycott Many wonder what will happen if we boycott. Will textile workers lose their jobs? We don't know the consequences of boycotting, and so I can't encourage this, BUT, every time we spend money, we give a vote to what world we want to live in. Think about that for a moment. Here are my thoughts on what would happen if more people had boycotted:
1. Yes, maybe more workers will lose their jobs. But I still think something "drastic" has to happen, for change to come. Maybe someone has to struggle for a little time, so that others, later, can feel better (?)
2. If you were a manager/ CEO of H&M, and you noticed that consumers stopped buying clothes from you. Had you stepped down on production, resigned to abridges, and just accepted that no one would buy your clothes anymore? You want to satisfy the consumer as much as possible, so you do your best to win back the consumers. If we as consumers demand fair clothes, the big clothing brands KNOW what they need to do to keep making money
3. Boycotting may not be the right thing, but what about changing your buying habits? Stop going for "shopping", like it's a hobby, buy less clothes, and just buy what you need
Ethical clothing I