I read a comment online sometime back where the commenter was turned off when he found out that certain branded range of products were all mass produced in a certain Asian country without regard for fair wages, health & safety of workers and potential environmental impacts.
One response to him was, “So what? It can’t be helped. You cannot avoid it.”
Can it be avoided? Is it true, that it cannot be helped?
On 24 April 2013, 1,134 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The debacle in Bangladesh brought global attention to consumers on who are the makers of the clothing they wear daily. Rana Plaza was a hub for some of the largest global brands (29 in total) yet so little care and concern were given to the garment makers. I wonder how many were Mums and Dads like you and me just trying to make a living so that our kids can have a better future. The grief is unimaginable, the loss irreversible.
The country’s worst-ever industrial accident caused a chain reaction of global brands pulling out of the country for fear of brand dilution. I was sad to read that instead of taking responsibility to assist the factories to improve fire safety and working conditions for the Bangladeshi garment workers, most major companies opted for the simple solution which was to exit and find another supplier elsewhere.
Although according to an article on ABC, about 4 million people work in Bangladesh’s garment industry, some earning as little as $38 a month, conditions Pope Francis has compared to “slave labour“, the garment industry has however transformed the social and economic landscape for Bangladesh. Closures of garment factories due to audits by global brands only cause job losses and hurt locals to plunge into poverty. Exiting is not a solution.
Ownership and responsibility is imperative to change the garment industry in Bangladesh. In June 2015, the owners of Rana Plaza were charged with murder. The victims and families affected were finally compensated after two years of vigorous campaigning by the Clean Clothes Campaign. However, this quote reflected the reluctant hearts of the global brands who dragged their feet to agree to any compensation to the Rana Plaza victims.
The tragedy led to a wake up call for all consumers in Australia. According to a survey conducted by not-for-profit aid organisation Oxfam, almost 70 per cent of Australians would pay more for their clothes if it meant workers were given an acceptable wage and worked in safe factories. In addition, 84 per cent of Australians who took part in the survey say they want Australian companies to sign onto an accord to ensure safety standards are improved in Bangladeshi factories.
This is good news for local ethical businesses promoting ethically made products. The more we care about what we buy, the more we can change future businesses on how products are sourced and made.
My Fair Baby is committed to source for products which we can trace who the makers are.
We care about the makers and want to ensure they make a good wage, work in safe conditions and are treated fairly. Some of our products are made by artisans who own micro enterprises where they are empowered to make a living under their own terms. Discover our makers here.
Simply put, we’re making the effort to show that it can be helped.
Have you bought something recently that made you think twice about where it was made?
During 18-24 April 2016 of Fashion Revolution week, My Fair Baby joins people from all over the world together to use the power of fashion to change the story for the people who make the world’s clothes and accessories. Be curious! Start asking your favourite brands. “Who made my clothes?” It’s time we call for transparency in the world of fashion. Not just fashion for adults but for kidswear. Join the global movement.
About the Author
Cynthia Cheong is a great believer in using business as a vehicle to fund community development projects aimed to make a positive change. She runs an online business, My Fair Baby which is committed in providing fairtrade and ethically made baby and kids clothing, toys and accessories and gives 100% of profits earned to My Fair Baby charity partners.