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Fairtrade Clothing is a Woman’s Issue? Seriously?

I was contemplating a particularly strange social media phenomena recently; where women post selfies with signs stating why they don’t need feminism ( for a giggle read this great come back). Anyway, I was considering this straight after I had made a post on a documentary exploring cheap clothing manufacture in Bangladesh and South-East Asia, in which I highlighted something I have noted before – that the cheap clothing industry operates cheaply primarily through the exploitation of women.

In fact  80% of the jobs in clothing production are occupied by women, though the lions share of senior positions and wages go to men. I have also noted in my post on the problems with clothing production that one of the serious hidden issues in clothing production are ‘homeworkers’ or ‘outsourcing’. Where a mainly female workforce, working from home is required to deliver massive outputs to factories for what equates to less than the local minimum wage (they are paid per garment not by the hour). This is possible because such work flies under the radar of the casual factory observer, they are often on no contracts at all and do the work casually, so there is no record either. Which is why I always put on my ‘face of skepicality’  (yep a new word I made up just for this) when people tell me they know their manufacturers are ‘fair’ ones because they have visited the factory floor. So fair trade is a woman’s issue because:

Women working in industry in developing countries are just like you and me but without real choices.

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The Production of Cotton Clothing (A Lot of Ethical & Environmental Craziness): Part 2 of 3

Last week I posted an infographic outlining the basic process of cotton clothing production (Where Does your Cotton Tee Come From?). Understanding where our goods come from is interesting stuff just from a ‘how cool is that?” perspective, anyone seen how online supermarket stores operate? What understanding the production chain also does is lift the veil on HOW the stuff we buy is made, and so helps us decide how comfortable we are with what those processes mean for people and the environment.

So, further to the basics of the cotton clothes production process I want to draw attention to where things seem to have gone pretty pear shaped. I want to show (using additions to the original infographic) where in the process costs are cut and how. These are cuts that enable us to buy seriously cheap clothes (and lets face it some not so cheap because even high end fashion producers use the same process), and ensure some large textile & fashion businesses bring in handsome profits.

I have worked to verify all claims with valid evidence & reports , and for the interested reader there is a pretty extensive reference list (yeah yeah do an eye roll, I am a geek). If anyone sees any gaping holes, or has some evidence they think is more substantial or valid do swing it my way!

PS. I will follow this blog up with a final instalment on tangible solutions. So all is not lost, despair not people…..

 

Infographic: Environmental & Ethical Craziness in Cotton Clothing Production

Infographic: Environmental & Ethical Craziness in Cotton Clothing Production

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Where Does your Cotton Tee Come From? Part 1 of 3

Cotton clothing production is complex. Cotton clothing production involves many people. Cotton clothing production is resource intensive. There is room for improvement. Significant room.

In an earlier blog I discussed what buying certified fair trade cotton clothing actually means. In that blog I skipped over the complexities of the cotton production process for the purposes of brevity. Now I want to lay out exactly what the supply chain for cotton clothing in India (where muka kids clothes will be made) looks like. The purpose being to help highlight the complexity of the process, the huge numbers of workers involved and to lay the ground work for talking about where exactly in that chain ethical and environmental issues crop up and how they can best be countered. Right, no further words, just a picture (all be it with lots of words!).

 

Infographic. Cotton Production in India.

Infographic. Cotton Production in India.

What does ‘certified fairtrade’ mean when it comes to clothes?

It is a long supply chain, but we have it covered.

It is a long supply chain, but we have it covered.

While I have always been what you would call a ‘fairtrade motivated’ consumer, and I was pretty clear on what buying fairtrade certified food products like coffee, chocolate, bananas, sugar meant.  However, the picture was a little less clear when it came to clothing, and actually I hardly even considered it as an issue really.

When I started on the muka kids path I knew that fairtrade certification would be more complicated for clothing than the for the direct commodity products where the route from farmer to consumer is short. However, sorting out in my own mind what certified fairtrade clothing actually meant did require doing quite a bit of digging. I thought it would be useful to share what I found.

Figure 1 (I can’t help myself, it is the researcher in me coming out!) is a simplified but pretty accurate idea of the chain from the food commodity farmer to you (e.g. coffee, banana etc).

Fugure 1. Farmer to consumer chain for simple foods

Figure 1. Farmer to consumer chain for simple foods

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