Fair Trade Fortnight 2021 starts today, and with it brings a welcome shift in focus to the people who make the products we use, the food we eat and the clothes we wear. At Small Eco Steps, our aim is always to help people make small changes for the better. Going fair trade overnight isn't possible or sustainable for most people; learning and changing over time works best for most people and brings with it change that lasts.
Establishing what fair trade means (or even what we mean by "trade") is complicated; there are so many steps involved in producing an item that it's difficult to imagine what aspects are fair, what are unfair and how anyone could hope to make that distinction. Take an item of Frugi or Kite clothing for example- there are so many people involved in the growing and harvesting of cotton, the manufacture of dyes and finishing products, the factory workers who weaving the fabric and those involved in physically making the clothes. Fair trade isn't just about making sure these individuals are all adults, working freely and receiving a living wage, it's about ensuring that they are given security in their contracts and that the power imbalance isn't permanently in the favour of the buyer. For example, early on in the covid pandemic, when many high street clothes retailers in the Uk saw a huge drop in sales, there were some who refused to honour contracts made with factories, leaving these suppliers with clothes already made and no payment for them. Thankfully, the majority of retailers did the right thing by their suppliers, but the fair trade guidelines in place with the GOTS standard used on our rang of organic childrens clothing means such behaviour is guaranteed.
Sometimes I find myself thinking about the factory machinists as i'm getting my children dressed in the mornings, what they were thinking as they brought the garment to life. The big things: were they happy and in good health? How has covid affected their work and lives? Do they have children? And the little things; what do they think of the Duns and rainbows? What clothes do their children wear? What do they think about when they're dressing their children in the morning?
I'm a worrier, and one of the reasons I buy GOTS organic clothing is the stringency and transparency of the standards. It's not an easy standard for clothing manufacturers to meet, and guarantees that at the very least, the "big things" are taken care of - workers are safe, they aren't working with dyes and chemicals that will make them ill over time, they work freely and are paid fairly.
We take these "big things" for granted in our own work and lives, and I dream of a world where we can take for granted that all workers around the world are able to say the same. Until then, the #smallecostep I can take is to buy GOTS organic wherever I can, and help to spread the word about the #fairtrade meaning behind the beautiful clothes and toys we sell.