Honestly I have no idea. I highly doubt we live in a world where everyone gets a fair deal, where everyone is paid fairly, where materials are sourced sustainably and where the whole process is honest, clear and fair for everyone involved.
It is a sad thing to admit to yourself. Sometimes you just have to turn a blind eye, because what else can you do?
I sit here in my office and suddenly become aware of everything around me. The carpet; who made it, how was it made, was everyone paid fairly, and were the working conditions of all involved safe? How about the paint that lines the walls? The bricks that built this building? The keyboard that I type on, or the pile of paper sat next to me? The clothes I wear… The phone I use…
I know it’s all bad. It must be. I doubt that each of these things were made to a Fairtrade standard.
Allowing yourself to become aware of it sucks. It is actually a really sad thing to comprehend, so again in a matter of moments I will turn a blind eye to it all, because how else can I go about my day? I can’t live a life that’s truly pure if I continue to buy these things and live in this man made world.
But we can’t all just run away into the forests and live at one with the earth. I don’t think there would even be enough space for us all to fit in, and frankly not many of us (myself included) have any knowledge on how to survive and live sustainably anyway.
So what can we do?
Sometimes the answer might be simple; buy things with a fairtrade label, often found on coffee jars or bananas. But what about furniture or clothing, how do you know that it’s ethically produced?
You might consider shopping at a store where they promise that their workers are treated fairly, but who is to say that any of it is true? I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly heard of people working illegally in the UK. The only positive is that I’m fairly certain that none of them would be young children, as the laws are pretty tight here. However the same can’t be said for elsewhere and that’s terrible considering that most of our stuff is manufactured abroad.
Watching last night’s Panorama, we saw what we all probably knew anyway… Children are making our clothes, being paid barely anything, but they are given no choice as it’s their only way to survive. This is not ok.
In all honestly, I would expect this sort of thing from cheap stores, like Primark, but honestly I didn’t expect it from M&S. The company who says, “We have a responsibility to ensure workers’ rights are at the forefront of our decision-making and minimum standards are upheld in order to respect human rights, promote decent working conditions and improve sustainability across our supply base.”
“Our customers benefit too – from better quality, better value products and peace of mind.”
I have always believed that by buying things from M&S, I would be paying more money but for a good reason, for that peace of mind. I never thought M&S would find themselves caught up in a story involving child labour. That’s frankly pathetic and upsetting.
As I watched the show yesterday, my mind soon cast back to the Skirt I’d bought from M&S only the day before. The skirt itself was beautiful. The fabric shone like an angels wings and the skirt danced like it was waltzing along to a royal tune. I honestly felt like the Queen of Taiwan when I tried it on and I knew I just had to buy it.
At £59.00 it was more than I’d ever imagined spending on an item of clothing. However my reasoning was that it was a timeless piece and not something I’d wear once and throw out after. I knew that a lot of love and hard work had gone into making this piece and for that reason I could understand why the price tag was so high.
Or at least that’s how I felt when I bought it.
Fast forward one day, sitting and watching Panorama, I couldn’t get the skirt out of my head. Who really had made it? I began to doubt the promises that I had bought into. M&S had my trust as a consumer, and also on a more human level. I believed the company did really practise what they preached. Yet the TV screen was clearly showing me otherwise.
I was gutted, completely and utterly gutted. Not only had I been lied to by M&S, but I had bought into a dream of fair and responsible manufacturing. My skirt no longer shone with beauty, instead it sang of wealth and idiocy. It was now dirty and stained with the understanding and awareness that this probably was made by children, or refugees, or people who just have no other choice, but to accept low wage and poor working conditions. This was not ok.
Do you want to know what I did this morning?
I returned that Damn skirt. Seeing it in the pictures above makes me feel a mix of sadness and anger. How can something of such beauty, actually be a sign of exploitation. I could have understood it from other stores, but not M&S. No, these guys really have shocked me and now I feel gutted.
So when I ask what can we do? I really do ask your advice.
I can get the idea of buying from small instagram mummy’s who make clothes and sell them, but that is only one part of the chain. Where did the fabric come from to make the clothes, who printed it, or dyed it? Where did the packaging come from to ship it? Oh there are so many layers of evil, I just wish I knew where to begin.