Ethical Fashion
Slow fashion, also called ethical fashion, has become more popular over the last several years. Surveys showed that shoppers were 10% more interested in knowing how manufacturers make their clothes in 2020 than they were two years before. Meanwhile, the surveys showed that around 66% considered sustainability when purchasing products. Slow fashion has countless benefits from alleviating environmental strain to stopping animal cruelty. Also, slow fashion can help end world poverty. By buying ethical fashion, consumers directly aid companies that care about their employees. These shoppers are also opening many new industries within world economies and providing the makers who sew their clothes a better quality of life.

Brands that Care

People who desire change in the fashion industry and better working conditions for garment makers have created many ethical fashion brands. These companies seek to spread awareness about harmful working practices. They want to give back to the communities that contribute to their work. They aim to show the public that customers can have beautiful clothes without exploiting people in the process. These brands strive to support garment workers who would, otherwise, be living in poverty.

One brand that recognizes that slow fashion can help end world poverty is Able. The brand started in Ethiopia in 2010 to give women who wanted to leave the sex industry a chance to find work. Since 2018, Able has started a movement called the “Accountable” and published its worker’s wages. The movement aimed to give its customers full transparency and educate the public on what a “living wage” includes and inspire them to demand the same for other brands.

Another example of an ethical fashion brand is Seza’ne. Starting in 2013, Seza’ne’s focus is on “helping the next generation.” This led it to start the nonprofit Demain (meaning “tomorrow” in French) in 2017, which is focusing on improving education access for disadvantaged children worldwide. Partnering with other education charities, Demain has started a monthly program named “The Call of the 21st.” This program includes donating 10% of the profit Seza’ne makes on the 21st of each month to its supported charities. It also ensures that Seza’ne releases a new design each month with the intent of donating 100% of the profit. Demain supported over 30,000 children and has collected over $3 million for its supported charities.

Buying Less

Since ethical fashion pieces are more expensive, customers receive encouragement to buy less. Besides considering the price, the clothes last much longer and thus buyers do not have to replace them as frequently. Buying less helps garment workers because they have less pressure to make more clothing in exploitive working conditions.

A typical fast-fashion brand expects to put out a new fashion line every two weeks. Garment workers often experience inhumane working days, working 11 hours or so with no breaks due to the high demand. To make the clothing cheap for customers, these companies pay their employees very little. Sometimes, they receive as little as 50 cents an hour. This system limits workers to poverty, as they have no time to find other sources of income.

Boosting the Economy

Perhaps it is counterintuitive that buying less clothing could have a positive impact on our economy. However, slow fashion opens up many new industries that do not exist under the fast fashion model, particularly through a system called “circular fashion.” This aims to use and restore clothing for as long as possible.

Because people throw most clothes away when they do not want them or when garments have damage, they lose more than $500 billion every year. Meanwhile, clothing from slow fashion brands tends to last longer and customers can wear them longer, which opens up many new industries to increase a garment’s life. Examples of possible industries include clothing repair, fixing damaged clothing as well as adjusting clothing sizes or altering clothes to fit new trends. Furthermore, one can also partake in clothing resale, selling clothes so people who want sustainable clothing on a smaller budget can purchase them second-hand. Lastly, people can utilize clothing rental, especially in the case of when they will use clothing for a short amount of time such as in the case of formal clothing for children.

Outside Fashion

Outside of the fashion industry, slow fashion can help end world poverty and boost the economy in the same way other industries can. Giving the people who make clothing a livable wage and helping them rise out of poverty allows them to purchase more U.S./European products.

Slow fashion can help alleviate world poverty because it allows the people behind these brands to continue carrying out their beneficial work. It demands that the people making clothing receive just pay and have safe working conditions. When garment workers obtain support, they are able to have access to resources for themselves and their families.

Mikayla Burton
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Fashion Brands Fighting Poverty
Others are increasingly holding businesses accountable for their practices. Accountability—in regards to environmental impact, gender equality and racial representation—is rising within all industries. The fashion industry is no exception. Fast fashion brands like Uniqlo and the recently bankrupt Forever21 continue to confront criticism. These companies and others have disastrous environmental impacts and use inhumane working conditions and wages. It is increasingly difficult to find fashion brands fighting poverty.

Fortunately, the industry is starting to change. Ethical brands are on the rise, with some even building business models that fight against global poverty. These business models safely employ women and men in impoverished countries. But being a conscious consumer is also trendy: a 2019 McKinsey report found that two-thirds of global consumers admitted a brand’s stance on social and environmental issues influenced whether they purchased from that brand. From everyday shopping staples to high-end fashion pieces, ethical approaches to fashion transform the industry and improve the lives of those who work for these companies. Here are three ethical fashion brands fighting poverty.

Indego Africa

Indego Africa aims to alleviate poverty for women and their families through artisan employment and entrepreneurial education. The brand teaches women to intricately weave baskets and bags. Founder Matthew Mitro lived in Nigeria for six years. His inspiration drew on his work with Nigerian women and thus started Indego Africa in 2007. Employing over 1,200 artisans, the brand has extended its impact into Rwanda and Ghana. According to its 2018-2019 Annual and Social Impact Report, 90% of artisans employed through Indego Africa could pay for all or most of their children’s education.

Production occurs in Rwanda and Ghana. All of the company’s profits go towards business and vocational programs to educate Indego Africa’s employees and young adults, particularly young women, in nearby communities. Indigo Africa designs its programs to cater to the large demographic of unemployed young adults. By fostering educational platforms in areas like technology, business and leadership, Indego Africa carves out a clear path to economic independence for young women in Africa.

Gift of Hope

Gift of Hope supplies handmade goods to buyers, as well as hope to Haitian children who became orphans when their families can no longer afford to care for them. Founder Mallery Neptune first visited Haiti when she was 16, but it was not until she turned 20 that she founded the Haiti Foundation Against Poverty in 2007. The program started with a focus on sponsoring children and providing food for the elderly. By 2010, it expanded into the Gift of Hope project, a program designed to create jobs for Haitian mothers. In Haiti, women struggle to secure stable and sustainable employment and therefore disproportionately experience poverty.

As an extension of the Haiti Foundation Against Poverty, Gift of Hope employs over 70 jewelry-makers, seamstresses and other Haitian artisans. The nonprofit employs impoverished women who have lost their children to poverty (or are at risk of doing so) and pays them three times more than the minimum wage. This practice draws individuals and their families out of poverty. Every purchase with Gift of Hope saves a child from orphan-hood, reuniting families.

Carcel

Fashion label Carcel is proof that high-end fashion brands can too adopt ethical practice within their supply chains. Headed by Veronica D’Souza, the Danish company works with incarcerated women in Peru and Thailand where the poverty rates as of 2018 are 22% and 9.85%, respectively. Oftentimes the company’s employees have been imprisoned for human trafficking and drug-related crimes, but D’Souza believes they fell onto these paths because they could not escape the cycle of poverty.

Carcel works with the National Prison System in Peru and the Ministry of Justice in Thailand. They give 27 women the opportunity to hone local craftsmanship. In conjunction with mastering clothes-making techniques, Carcel offers instructional programs on managing cash, financial literacy and English. These programs equip women with educational tools to secure financial stability. Upon their release from prison, women have the skills they need to avoid re-incarceration or falling back into poverty. Fashion brands fighting poverty are increasingly popular, giving hope for improving the lives of thousands of workers worldwide.

– Grace Mayer
Photo: Flickr

Ethically Shop
Fighting poverty can seem an impossible task, but the truth is that organizations exist all over the world working to alleviate suffering by providing employment. It is also easy to partner with these organizations by ethically shopping. Below are five places to ethically shop while alleviating poverty in their countries.

The LifeStitches Project

The LifeStitches Project sells beautiful tabletop décor and other fabric products. Arua, Uganda is home to a vibrant and extensive fabric market. The LifeStitches workshop utilizes the fabrics to create skillfully sewn products. Brightly patterned tablecloths, potholders, aprons and bags show off the culture and skill of the women who create them.

LifeStitches began as a support group for women with HIV/AIDS. In Uganda, 1.2 million citizens have HIV/AIDS.  According to the website’s “LifeStitches Uganda Documentary,” 95% of “children living with HIV acquire it from their… mother.”

The documentary goes on to explain that, tragically, deep stigma often causes the women to stay silent about their condition. In 2000, a hospital worker, O’daru Grace Yiti, faced the dreaded diagnosis. Three years later, she brought other women living with HIV/AIDS together to support one another. They met “under the mango tree on the hospital grounds” and created a community for each other.

Two years later, Katherine Gnauck, M.D came to Arua and met the support group. She noticed a need for economic stability since the women faced such a strong stigma. Together, Gnauck and the support group began a project for the women to support themselves and their children.

Now, the women struggling with AIDS/HIV in Arua, Uganda have a place to make a living. Their products are available online via an Etsy shop.

Aarong

Aarong, an incredibly popular retail chain in Bangladesh, is another business that provides a way to ethically shop. Aarong sells clothing, jewelry and leather merchandise along with many other products.

The heart behind Aarong, according to its website, is to provide a “productive outlet for the marginalized artisans while celebrating quality work.” In order to accomplish this goal Aarong gives people training to become artisans. Shondhya Rani Sarkar joined Aarong to provide for her son. She worked her way up and is now training new employees. Aarong has helped over 65,000 artisans like Shondhya.

Aarong originally started as just a few artisans that BRAC, a development organization, employed to create unique goods. The beginning, in 1976, was quite slow, but over the course of time, Aarong became a well-known brand. Still employing local artisans, Aarong’s products are both ethical and well-made.

Its website provides an opportunity to ethically shop. It also has an app available for more convenient shopping.

Azizi Life

For home décor and kitchen wares in addition to bags and jewelry, the Rwandan company, Azizi Life, is a wonderful place to ethically shop. Its woven bowls and baskets have both simple and intricate designs, giving options for every style. In addition, the wooden kitchenware gives an artistic flair to everyday objects.

Azizi Life strives to build a family of businesses that would then feed into local efforts to alleviate poverty within the local community. With its roots in the organization Food for the Hungry, Azizi Life grew into a self-sustaining business that provides employment to artisans across Rwanda. In fact, Rwandan artisans create each of the products at Azizi Life.

Jeannine Umutoniwase became CEO in 2016 when the founder, a member of the nonprofit that founded the business, wanted to hand it over to local leadership.

The organization hopes to assist with “the national vision for growth and development.” According to its website, three of Azizi Life’s hallmarks are commitments to fair trade, sustainability and the environment. In addition, the artisans use natural products, and the company even ships the products in recyclable packaging.

To ethically shop at Azizi Life, visit its website.

Vi Bella

Vi Bella offers an easy way to shop ethically for jewelry, sewn and home products. Lovely and simple, the products span from stylish handbags to beaded earrings. Vi Bella also offers a wide selection of home décor.

Vi Bella started in 2011 when the founder, Julie Hulstein, saw terrible devastation in Haiti after a major earthquake. Because of the sudden poverty, she saw a need to sell goods from Haitian craftsmen. Additionally, she wanted to sell them at a fair wage and to a larger client base. Vi Bella offers a way for craftsmen to sell their products overseas.

Not long after, the organization expanded to Mexico and the U.S., employing over 60 craftspeople.

Vi Bella’s products are available on its website.

Ten Thousand Villages

Ten Thousand Villages is a store that sells beautiful handmade gifts from all over the world. With the aim to end generational poverty and bring about social change, Ten Thousand Villages sells everything from soap from Israel to hammocks that artisans made in Nicaragua.

The organization started in the 1940s when a few women from La Plata, Puerto Rico met an American by the name of Edna Ruth Byler. The women needed a go-between to export their embroidery. It started simply with Byler bringing products home to sell. Those simple acts resulted in Ten Thousand Villages, which, over 70 years later, is still thriving by employing local artisans all over the world who otherwise would have little means to export their goods.

Ten Thousand Villages provides a simple and often inexpensive place to shop on its website.

There are dozens of organizations that offer ways to ethically shop. In addition to the five above, there are a great many that have the heart to pull themselves and their neighbors out of poverty all while celebrating beautiful art and style.

Abigail Lawrence
Photo: Flickr

Ethical Clothing BrandsThe rise of the fast fashion industry in recent years has perpetuated unethical labor conditions for those working in the garment industry. Many of these workers are women and children who are forced to live in a vicious cycle of poverty because they do not receive living wages. However, in response to these human rights abuses, new clothing companies have emerged with a commitment to the ethical treatment of their workers. Here is a list of the top four ethical clothing brands.

Top 4 Ethical Clothing Brands

  1. Organic Basics- Organic Basics has become widely known among ethical clothing brands for its dedication to using eco-friendly materials and 100 percent recycled packaging. The company, as the name suggests, produces basics such as underwear, bras, socks, activewear and t-shirts for men and women, with a focus on using organic cotton. Organic Basics sources its final stage of production from countries that are at high-risk for labor abuses, such as Turkey and Portugal, but the company ensures that living wages are paid all across the supply chain. Organic Basics’ website also features a tool called the Impact Index, which allows customers to compare the company’s production practices with traditional production practices in terms of waste, chemicals, energy, emissions and water.
  2. Kowtow- Kowtow is a New Zealand-based brand producing womenswear and ceramics. Like other ethical clothing brands, Kowtow strives to ensure that living wages are paid across the supply chain. All of the company’s factories are also certified by SA8000, a standard of social accountability that indicates an organization’s commitment to the fair treatment of workers. SA8000’s measures evaluate organizations and brands through nine metrics: child labor, forced or compulsory labor, health and safety, freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, discrimination, disciplinary practices, working hours, remuneration and management system. Kowtow also uses only Fair Trade Labelling Organisations International (FLO) certified cotton in its products, allowing farmers to secure better prices for their cotton and supporting communities.
  3. People Tree- People Tree, launched in 1991 by award-winning social entrepreneur Safia Minney, is an ethical clothing brand creating high-quality essentials for women. The company sources from countries that are at high or extreme risk of labor abuse, such as Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Turkey, Portugal and Nepal. People Tree protects its workers by adhering to the Fairtrade International – Small Producers Organizations Code of Conduct. People Tree ensures that suppliers pay living wages and either visits or uses a third party to audit all suppliers in the supply chain to ensure that labor standards are met. As one of the oldest ethical fashion companies, People Tree was the first to be awarded the World Fair Trade Organization product label. The company also offers discounts for students on its website.
  4. HARA- HARA creates ethical bras, underwear, loungewear and scrunchies for women. The company’s vision is to have all of its supply chain in one location or country to ensure workplace safety and fair labor standards. Currently, all of HARA’s products are dyed, cut, sewn, packaged and shipped in Melbourne, Australia. According to the company’s website, “All employees work under the Australian Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award 2010 which entitles them to the right to a living wage and ensure that wages for a normal workweek, not including overtime, shall always meet at least legal or industry minimum standards. Wages shall be sufficient to meet the basic needs and to provide some discretionary income.” Along with these requirements, the company also provides adequate breaks, time off, workplace lighting, climate and hygiene standards, a safe work environment and protection against discrimination.

These ethical clothing brands allow consumers to easily support clothing brands that are committed to the fair treatment of garment workers. These companies and consumers are breaking the cycle of poverty caused by the unethical practices of fast fashion companies.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Pixabay

ethical shopping websites
Online shopping is a quick, convenient way to buy almost everything these days. However, as more consumers become concerned with labor conditions and the ethics of the companies they are purchasing from, online shopping has become more complicated. In order to help users see which brands align most with their ethics and values, multiple platforms have become available to help take the guesswork out of ethical shopping. Using one or all of these ethical shopping websites allows consumers to vote with their dollars and take some of the guilt out of online shopping.

Good On You

Good On You is available both on the web and as an app. It ranks clothing brands on a zero to five scale based on their performance in three categories: people, planet and animals. The organization then uses the ratings of these categories to formulate the brand’s overall rating from one to five. Good On You provides links to where users can buy Good and Great brands (rated fours and fives, respectively) on its respective rating pages.

The people category focusses on workers’ rights across a brand’s supply chain. Factors taken into consideration include practices and policies related to child labor, worker safety, forced labor, the right to join a union and payment of a living wage. The planet category considers a brand’s impact on the environment. Specific metrics included in the evaluation are resource use and disposal, carbon emissions, energy use, water use and chemical use and disposal. The animal category is concerned with whether or not a company uses animal products, and if so, the sourcing of such products. Specific animal products Good On You notes include fur, down feathers, angora, karakul, shearling and the skin and hair of exotic animals. The company also considers if and how brands use wool, mulesing and leather.

For each of the three categories, Good On You also considers whether or not brands are taking positive steps toward becoming more ethical or showing industry leadership. Conversely, it also considers “negative citizenship” practices, such as lobbying against legislation to reduce harm or increase transparency.

The organization sources information used to determine brand ratings from independent certification schemes and rating projects like Fair Trade, OEKO-TEX and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Where one of the rating projects does not cover an ethical issue, Good On You utilizes the brand’s public statements. However, Good On You only uses brand statements if they make specific and relevant claims. In most cases, if these claims are false, the company in question would be violating misleading advertising laws, and thus, people would not consider the claims reliable.

Ecoture

Ecoture is one of Australia’s only ethical shopping websites. It allows users to shop ethical clothing and beauty brands all in one place. Like Good On You, Ecoture allows users to see which brands align most with their values. Icons designate whether or not a brand is cruelty-free, natural, upcycled/recycled, ethically made, organic, vegan, handmade, sustainable or vegetarian.

Ecoture’s Impact

Ecoture also commits to alleviating labor abuses and the poverty that comes with them. Today, an estimated 40 million people are garment workers, and 85 percent of them are women. Ecoture has partnered with i=Change to help empower the girls and women working in the garment industry. The organization partners with multiple NGOs in order to support projects that directly impact the lives of women and girls worldwide.

With every purchase from Ecoture, consumers may choose an NGO fighting on behalf of women and girls in developing countries. Then, Ecoture donates $1 per sale to that customer’s organization through i=Change. Customers can then track the impact of Ecoture and i=Change supported projects, allowing them to see just how Ecoture is using their contributions.

Online shopping does not have to mean compromising on ethics or core values. With ethical shopping websites like Good On You and Ecoture, consumers are able to choose which brands, causes and values they should use their dollars to support and promote.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Pixabay

People Tree FoundationWithin the last two decades, the fashion industry has become increasingly cheap and accessible. The term fast fashion refers to rapidly and cheaply produced apparel that cycles out according to ever-changing trends. This term has been integrated into most fashion brands’ profit-oriented business models and has negatively impacted impoverished communities in developing countries.

Fast fashion brands often exploit poor countries for cheap labor, and many supply chains that are connected with big-name brands do not provide safe working conditions or sufficient living wages. For example, nine out of 10 fashion workers in Bangladesh cannot afford enough food for their families.

The People Tree Foundation

However, People Tree is defying the harmful practices of the fashion industry. People Tree is a fair trade brand, based in London and Tokyo, which takes a more people-oriented approach to fashion. People Tree’s work focuses on promoting sustainability, empowering women and improving conditions in poor communities. This fair trade brand is dedicated to producing ethically-made and sustainable clothing by using environmentally friendly materials and implementing good working conditions. People Tree refers to their practices as “slow fashion.”

People Tree is not just a fashion brand; it also works alongside an independent charity called the People Tree Foundation. The foundation works to accomplish three main goals: reduce poverty, protect the environment and spread awareness about fair trade. To reach these goals, People Tree raises funds to provide education and training to people in developing countries, protect the environment by using organic materials and campaigning to raise awareness about sustainable and ethical fashion.

The People Tree Foundation works in countries that are vulnerable to exploitation such as Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Kenya. These countries are susceptible to the injustices of fast fashion because the garment industry dominates their economy and comprises the majority of jobs. The foundation is involved with a variety of fair trade projects in these developing countries that aim to empower artisan groups in small communities.

In 2015, the People Tree Foundation generated more than £10,000 from sales and donations. The funds raised for that year were donated to projects such as Thanapara Swallows. Thanapara Swallows is a nongovernmental organization in Bangladesh committed to educating and training the poor population and creating health awareness and self-employment opportunities. Thanapara Swallows built a school in Bangladesh that educates nearly 300 students who are getting five years of primary education, and People Tree supports 50 percent of their school’s running costs.

Other Sustainable Solutions

In the fight against fast fashion, People Tree is not alone. Many fair trade organizations and brands have been on a rise in popularity. For example, the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), which People Tree is a member of, is among the organizations leading the movement toward ethical and sustainable fashion.

The WTFO has over 330 Fair Trade Enterprise members and over 70 supporting organizations that are committed to abiding by fair trade practices, including respecting the environment, ensuring gender equality, providing fair wages and good working conditions and ensuring opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers. The WTFO has impacted over 965,700 livelihoods by creating a fair trade standard for brands to follow. Brands verified are by the WTFO through peer reviews and independent audits.

Ultimately, the future of fashion remains in the hands of the consumer. Making conscious purchases makes the world one step closer to making the production of apparel more sustainable and humane. Other ways to practice sustainability include reducing consumption by buying only what you need, buying only secondhand clothing and researching the companies behind products online or on the website and mobile app Good On You.

– Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Media Server

Why people should shop fair tradeOver three years ago, Cathy Marks was hired for the managing position at the fair trade store, Ten Thousand Villages, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When the previous company she worked for, a franchising company, was sold, Marks was temporarily unemployed. During this time, she decided to look for a career in “something more meaningful.”

Having shopped at Ten Thousand Villages in the past, Marks said she was “intrigued as a customer” from the positive impact Ten Thousand Villages makes in preventing global poverty. It didn’t take long before she applied for the position. Since then, Marks is enjoying her job in the fair trade industry. She says her favorite part is telling stories about the artists to customers because the stories allow customers to make connections between specific artisans and their culture with their products.

Marks believes fair trade is necessary because it helps people in developing countries have higher standards for their communities, their homes and their educational systems. Here are 10 reasons why people should shop fair trade.

10 Reasons Why People Should Shop Fair Trade

  1. Fights Global Poverty and Hunger – Fair trade guarantees workers are paid at least a “minimum floor price,” or the amount it costs for them to produce their product. This standard ensures workers are not living in poverty, resulting in them being able to live comfortably with an income that fulfills their basic household needs such as food and clothing. On top of that, it also ensures workers have a surplus sum of money which they are able to save for future needs.
  2. Empowers Workers – Because fair trade ensures workers are living above the poverty line, workers are able to spend less time worrying about where their next meal is coming from, and more time planning for their future. Instead of depending on others for help, they have control over their own lives. They have the ability, time and resources to make choices for the good of themselves and their community.
  3. Positively Impacts Communities – On top of their wages, workers in the fair trade industry are also given premiums. Premiums are funds that workers can put toward whatever they feel will best benefit their community. For instance, workers can use premiums to better their community’s educational system, healthcare system, environment, recreational facilities or water access. This ensures better conditions and futures for workers’ communities.
  4. Ensures Safe Working Conditions – Fair trade protects workers’ basic human rights. It ensures they work reasonable hours and work in an environment that is free of harmful chemicals and substances. Marginalized and vulnerable populations are equally protected under fair trade standards. Workers are paid a wage that allows them better health and better nutrition.
  5. Prohibits Child Labor – Fair trade standards ensure no forms of child labor and child slavery are used on farms. Children under the age of 18 are then able to attend school and lead healthier lives. The fair wage gives workers the resources they need to ensure their children receive proper nutrition.
  6. Protects Women’s and Minorities’ Rights – Fair trade ensures that women and minority workers are not discriminated against. No matter the workers’ age, race, religion, gender or ethnicity, all are treated equally. All are guaranteed fair wages and ethical working conditions.
  7. Promotes Environment Sustainability – Fair trade products are created using limited amounts of pesticides and fertilizers. They are not genetically engineered and utilize the most efficient amount of waste, water and energy as possible. In addition, many fair trade products are made from recycled materials. This helps preserve our planet’s natural resources.
  8. Keeps Indigenous Cultures Alive – When people shop fair trade, they get to experience multiple cultures from across the globe without having to go overseas. Each product, whether it be clothing, coffee beans, baskets or jewelry, comes from an artisan who spent their time and talent crafting the product. Through fair trade, artisans are able to keep their culture alive, share it with others and pass it down to the younger generations.
  9. Supports Ethicality – When shopping fair trade, people make a statement about how they think employees in developing countries should be treated– with fairness and equality. They are saying they believe all farmers and artisans should be paid at least minimum wage for the products they produce and that all farmers and artisans deserve to live a comfortable, healthy life. Buying fair trade raises awareness of the issue of unethical labor tactics.
  10. Meaningful Impact – Every time someone consumes a fair trade product, they are fulfilled, since they know their purchase is helping someone across the globe live a life free from poverty.

Like Marks encourages her customers, these 10 reasons show why people should shop fair trade. By shopping fair trade, workers’ rights are protected. They are treated equally and paid fairly. They are able to attend school and live in a comfortable, healthy environment. Their cultures are kept alive. When someone shops fair trade, they are helping keep the industry alive. Through a simple Google search, people can find a fair trade store near them to shop at and join the fight.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Fair Trade Product by Emily Turner

Ethical consumers

Nearly every consumer has heard of the shoe company TOMS and its “buy one, give one” business model. However, there are a number of other companies which also work to support ethical consumerism.

5 Companies for Ethical Consumers to Support Outside of TOMS

  1. 4Ocean: 4Ocean founders Alex Schulze and Andrew Cooper started their company after taking a trip to Bali, Indonesia and seeing the planet’s pollution problem first hand. Today they are present in 27 nations, employing over 150 locals. The company creates bracelets from the plastic and glass waste they clean up, pledging to clean one pound of trash for every bracelet sold. By employing locals to do so, they are empowering the people most affected by pollution and giving back to their economies.
  2. WakaWaka: WakaWaka, a Dutch solar manufacturer, has pledged to send over 2,000 LED lights to regions in West Africa currently struggling with Ebola outbreaks. Over 90 percent of Liberia and Sierra Leone are living in the dark, with no access to the power grid. WakaWaka hopes by bringing electricity to these regions they can help make a difference in the fight against Ebola. The WakaWaka Foundation donates its devices to areas in need around the world or “at a subsidized price or in exchange for community work.”
  3. HopeMade: HopeMade describes themselves as a “sustainable, and fair trade brand,” selling hand-made bags. They employ members of indigenous Colombian tribes, paying fair wages for the craftsmanship. The commitment to living wages and ethical production allows ethical consumers to know their money is going into the pocket of someone that needs it. According to HopeMade, “you directly support the sustainable fashion as well as empowering marginalized communities and this small tribe of powerful women.”
  4. Frank Water: Frank Water is a charity dedicated to providing safe drinking water for people living in Nepal and India. The company sells refillable water bottles and provides open access to tap water for the cost of just $5. All proceeds go towards giving those in need access to clean water. Without charities such as Frank Water girls must spend 6 hours a day fetching water. Frank Water has given over 100,000 people access to water, giving back hours of their day which can now be spent getting an education or working.
  5. Fair Indigo: Fair Indigo’s slogan “fashion with a conscience” sums up the clothing brand – sustainable and fairly made. The company is based in Peru, where it employs locals and pays fair wages. Fair Indigo holds a strong stance against sweatshops in the fashion industry. The company even has its own non-profit, The Fair Indigo Foundation, which is working to improve education in Peru. They are proud to state that every penny donated goes directly to the cause, with Fair Indigo baring the administrative cost.

Ethical brands such as these are working to make the world a better and more equal place for all people. While many companies attempt to profit off poverty-porn, there are still many options for ethical consumers that wish to spend their dollars at a company that cares.

– Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Among Workers in the Cashew IndustryWithin the past few decades, diet culture has no doubt become a fad in the United States. From weight loss pills and body slimmers to obsessive calorie counting, diet fads are everywhere. For many, dieting means consuming foods that are high in protein and low in cholesterol and saturated fats. A popular type of food that fits this category is cashews. Convenient when it comes to on-the-go snacks, these moon-shaped nuts are full of protein and healthy monounsaturated fats that make them an ideal snack for dieters.

The top importer of cashews for the past decade, the U.S. imported over 147,000 tons of cashews in 2016, a 32 percent increase from the past four years. Of these imports, 92 percent came from Brazil, India and Vietnam. While the high demand for cashews makes them easily accessible to first-world consumers, these tasty treats come with a price: the poverty among workers in the cashew industry.

The Problem: Hazardous & Unethical Working Conditions

Tamil Nadu, a state in India, is home to a vast amount of cashew farms. Around 500,000 Indian citizens work on these farms, the majority of whom are women, some as young as 13. Because these employees are hired without contracts, their employers have no obligation to provide steady incomes, pensions or holiday pay. On top of that, cashew harvesting is physically dangerous.

When harvesting cashews, one must break through two layers of shells to get to the nut. In between those two layers of shells are two chemicals, known as cardol and anacardic acid. Upon coming into contact with the skin, these chemicals leave painful burns. While a simple pair of gloves could protect the hands and flesh of cashew harvesters, employers refuse to permit or provide gloves because they slow down the harvesting process.

The average cashew harvester in India earns around 160 rupees per 10-hour day. This equates to $1.90 per 10-hour day. This amount is not just below the poverty line but below the extreme poverty line. In 2015, around 70,000 cashew harvesters in India went on strike, demanding an increase of 70 cents per day. However, with or without this raise, this wage remains below the poverty line.

Multiple supermarkets that import cashews from Tamil Nadu have voluntarily signed up to be members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). However, they have not taken action to prevent the unethical conditions of the cashew plantations contributing to the overall poverty among workers in the cashew industry.

The Solution: Combating Unethicality

In 2013, upon acknowledging the poverty among workers in the cashew industry, a company in India called Acceso Cashew Enterprise Private Limited (ACE) was formed. Partnering with U.S. nonprofit Technoserve, ACE works to address inefficiencies in farming practices and conditions of the cashew industry. ACE created an agriculture program to increase the number of cashew crops grown in India utilizing the least amount of resources. This program also improves farmers’ incomes by teaching them sustainability techniques and strengthening their market linkages. In 2014, over 1,000 farmers participated in the program.

Aatmaram Yashvant Agre, a farmer who participated in ACE’s agricultural program, successfully implemented the sustainability techniques to improve his farming. As a result, Agre’s overall cashew production grew by 30 percent. ACE, which works to end global poverty through business solutions, encourages advocacy on the issue of poverty and always accepts donations. By ensuring cashew harvesters are utilizing more efficient farming practices, their profits increase. Thus, poverty among workers in the cashew industry decreases. More efficient farming practices also ensure cashew harvesters avoid practices that cause them physical harm. And ultimately, this enables cashew harvesters to live humanely and lead healthier lives.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Flickr