What do you think of when you think Fairtrade? – Chocolate? Clothes? Maybe you think of a TV advert or a flyer and vaguely recall feeling moved by the notion of making the switch to Fairtrade.
More often than not our view of Fairtrade or ethical buying is that it’s a moral obligation rather than a way to buy. At the start of Fairtrade Fortnight, we want to challenge that perception. More than just buying Fairtrade – why don’t we choose it every time?
One brand that is trying to make this choice easier is a clothing brand called Know The Origin. This small fashion label started on November 23rd, 2016 and since then they have been committed to making a brand that is, in their own words, “stylish, affordable, fully ethical – so people could no longer say there is not a choice.” From conception through execution to delivery, every part of what they do has the aim of keeping things fair.
Whilst studying at the London College of Fashion Charlotte, the company founder, spent time in Bangladesh and India meeting the survivors of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse. Out there she realised that, “The factories we rely on aren’t just full of machines, they’re full of people” and this inspired her to start a brand that was integral to its core without compromising on quality. If you want to read their full story then just click here.
If we can agree on the ethos and practices of companies like this, then why do we need to be so regularly reminded to make the decision to buy Fairtrade?
The truth is, unfortunately, it isn’t always enough to just know the impact of not buying Fairtrade. Unless we allow these realities to change our viewpoint, we’ll always treat buying Fairtrade as some kind of one-off charitable giving instead of an unconscious choice.
Let’s be real. Part of the reason we don’t buy Fairtrade products is that they are usually more expensive than the items that we normally buy. But choosing Fairtrade isn’t just about the extra cost to us, it’s about justice towards people less well off than ourselves. Charlotte comments that for KTO choosing to be fair in how they buy and supply material “is costly to the business”. The reality is that for them choosing Fairtrade “reduces the fabrics [they] can use”.
When I actually reflect on why expense is a problem I realise it’s not really about my finances but more about my greed. I know that if I bought less I could probably buy better and fairer. Long story short, it’s about counting the full cost of what you buy – not just the quality of our clothing but the integrity in the process.
Buying Fairtrade feels like it has little to do with faith, however, standing up for justice on behalf of the unseen was what Jesus was all about. It wasn’t a talking point for him nor was it a social stance, it drove him to act and to do so consistently. That’s the challenge I’m choosing remember as I think about Fairtrade. To consistently remember that when I’m buying Fairtrade I’m choosing justice.
Disclaimer: I definitely don’t have this all together just yet. I don’t even have the presence of mind to remember to think Fairtrade each time I go shopping. Acknowledgement is the first step toward making a change, so let’s not congratulate ourselves for acknowledging it without remembering to carrying it out to action.
Food for thought
With today being the launch of Fairtrade fortnight why not start by doing your research and getting the information that you need? If you’re up for it have a look into the factory practices of some of the household brands you know and love. And if you’re looking for a place to start buying some Fairtrade clothes then why not start with Know The Origin – we think they’re pretty great.
Words by Kezia Owusu-Yianoma