Ethical Fashion 101: What is Fair Trade?

Fast Food – cheap, unhealthy & irresistible!
Fast Fashion – cheap, unfair & irresistible!

So what is ‘Unfair’ about fast fashion? You tell me.. can a garment that goes through cutting, stitching, dyeing, printing, embroidery, labeling, packaging, shipping & marketing be cheap? If not, then why are we paying unbelievably low prices for fast fashion brands? Since we aren’t paying the right price for the product, someone in the supply chain is.. Fair Trunk What is Fair Trade

Most of the fast fashion brands outsource their garment manufacturing to developing countries like Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, etc. for cheaper production rates. The brands have huge quantities and short timelines to satisfy the fast fashion customer with fresh styles every 2 weeks. This ends up with immense work pressure on the factory owners which trickles down on the workers. As a result, they are forced to work long hours in unhygienic and unsafe work conditions and paid very low wages. A lot of these factories are not regulated for health & safety measures and end up like the Rana Plaza disaster.

To summarize, Fast Fashion brands outsource garment manufacturing to developing countries to meet cost & timelines; which leads to:

  • Workers being paid very low wages – below living wages
  • Factories not being regulated for health & safety – that cuts costs
  • Factories further sub-contract work to smaller factories to meet timelines
  • Cut throat competition between factories further violate all the above to bag orders

While ZARA continues to be the most read case-study in B-schools for its agile supply chain & business model, this is the real truth behind the brand:

Fair Trade came into existence due to the lack of even international trade regulations. Every country has varied law, making it easier for the brands to shun away from the unfair practices at these factories. Fair Trade as a practice runs across the supply chain from farmers and upwards.

By definition,

“Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.

Fair Trade organisations have a clear commitment to Fair Trade as the principal core of their mission. They, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.”

The World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) has put forth 10 Principles of Fair Trade for any organisation to follow on a day-to-day basis to gain the Fair Trade certification. You can read the details here.10-ft-principles

How can YOU make a difference? Ask if what you’re buying is Fair Trade, simple! 🙂

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