The Weakest Link In The (Supply) Chain
The uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened as the weeks pass and new versions of “normal” set in for each of us. The questions surrounding the reintegration of business and gatherings loom heavy on everyone’s minds.
What will this look like? How quickly will it be an option to begin working or to gather with friends? Will I need to wear a face covering for weeks or months to come?
As we discussed in a previous post this global health crisis has uniquely showcased our collective humanity and the interconnectedness we all share. I think it’s safe to say that there literally isn’t a person on the planet who hasn’t been impacted by coronavirus. However, it’s important to note that those impacts are not proportionately shared among all people.
The fashion industry has become a representative example of the cause-and-effect nature of this crisis, leaving the most vulnerable even further challenged. Store closures are forcing companies to cancel orders of new product (some of which was in production or even finished) from their factory partners, which in turn is forcing them to forego payment of those at the end of the line — the garment makers.
A recent NY Times article thoroughly laid out the scenario taking place in Bangladesh where “$2.8 billion worth of orders [were] canceled or postponed since the start of the coronavirus crisis“. In other places around the globe, garment producers are being forced to work in unsafe and unsanitary working conditions in an attempt to fulfill what orders are still in play.
Sharif Zahir, who is the managing partner of a group of seven factories in Bangladesh had this to say in the NY Times article:
“We understand it is a difficult time for buyers but they must understand that garment manufacturers are currently the weakest link.”-Sharif Zahir, Ananta Group
Some groups have taken to the internet to demand change. Remake has started a petition to pressure large corporations to #PayUp and follow through with their orders. Feel free to add your support HERE.
But fortunately this isn’t the full story…
As a brand that acknowledges the vulnerabilities of people within the fashion supply chain and exists to see clothing makers celebrated and empowered, the impacts of this crisis are being deeply felt by us. We are saddened by these unforeseeable circumstances, and at the same time emboldened in the importance of our work.
By contrast, we wanted to shed light on the actions being taken by our non-profit partner Fair Trade USA amidst this crisis in an effort to highlight to you the importance of buying ethically during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
Here are some of the key points of difference we are seeing through our Fair Trade Certified partners…
1) Fair Trade USA is proactively encouraging safe factory conditions like social distancing and even closures in alignment with local governments so garment makers are safe.
2) All Fair Trade Certified brands are encouraged to pay on all promised orders or establish clear communication for partial or scheduled payments as per their existing Fair Trade guidelines.
3) Most excitingly to us, they are allowing for Fair Trade Committees at each producer to deploy the Fair Trade Premium Funds on an emergency basis to help assist in the most critical ways right now.
(As a reminder, these funds are additional premiums we pay as a brand for every item we produce with our Fair Trade Partners. These funds will help in vital ways during these trying times.)
Times of crisis have a way of exposing the true intentions and vulnerabilities of existing systems. They also give us perspective on what we want our future to look like as we think about life beyond our current realities.
In this instance — when it comes to the clothes you wear — it’s important to acknowledge our interconnectedness to the global community of makers who produce our items and consider our purchases as a way of supporting others. In the near term shopping Fair Trade Certified clothing ensures makers’ safety and wellbeing are prioritized, and in the future it will mean more people will be cared for during times of crisis.