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.
I really support you on this, and have often asked the same question myself. I read somewhere (quite a while ago, mind you) that some items of clothing had little notes attached to them, by the workers who made the clothes, and the notes all asked for help! Now I’m not sure how much of this was true – because I daresay the clothes would be inspected and suchlike, but….gosh, M&S being part of it all just breaks my heart. I can’t offer any pointers on where to go, other than perhaps charity shops (giving back to a good cause?) or maybe going to Etsy to buy something from an independent designer. Power, corruption, greed and injustice seem to run the world these days, sadly.
Pots of Tea
It’s nice to hear that you share my thoughts on this matter. Etsy is a great idea, because they are very strict when it comes to sellers criteria on what is and isn’t allowed to be sold. When it comes to handmade items they say this, “Handmade items are items that are made by you, the seller, or are designed by you and made with the help of an approved outside manufacturer who complies with our ethical manufacturing policies.”
Sounds like they really believe in the ideals that we do 🙂
Oh and I’ve heard about those labels too! Scary if they are real! Even if they were just stunts, doesn’t mean the message behind them are any less true.
Yes exactly – the label thing really stuck with me even now, so as you say, stunt or not, it really did make people think twice about their clothing choices! Regarding Etsy, there is always Folksy too, which is a UK version (I’m sure you have heard of it). Costs may be ever so slightly higher, but you would save on shipping for sure! 🙂
Pots of Tea
Oh wow, I actually hadn’t heard of it! *off she goes to explore* 😀
Haha! Have fun! 🙂
I had a similar shock when I realised that most big brands also test on animals and don’t use sustainable palm oil…it’s rubbish but like you said it is so hard to avoid buying all of these items. One thing I would suggest is contacting the company directly. It can feel demoralising when you don’t feel that you can make a change but the more people do this, the more pressure the company feels to take positive action. There are also lost of petitions and some sites allow you to start your own 🙂
Pots of Tea
Ooooh that’s a very good idea!
(I was half tempted to make a bit of a fuss when returning my skirt and tell them off for using child labour, but sadly the sales assistant didn’t ask the reason for returning it. Oh well.) Perhaps I’ll send a message to Head Office instead. Thanks for the ideas. I’m intrigued by the petitions idea. Off to google 🙂
Yeah, I think the best thing to do is to contact head office or customer services to make a complaint. That way it will hopefully have more impact. You can also Google ‘ethical clothing companies’ and see what comes up. I did this with make up and shampoos :). Oh and here are some of the sites that allow you to start your own campaigns and petitions: https://home.38degrees.org.uk/ and https://www.change.org/. One girl has managed to get some top supermarkets to agree to stop selling eggs from caged hens 🙂
Pots of Tea
Oooh wow, that’s impressive.
You know what I think I will write to them and put in a real complaint. Thanks.
As for a petition, I need to do a bit more homework on that part 🙂 Worth spending sometime thinking about it!
Good for you! 🙂 I think it’s worth it if you feel this affected by it and they need to know that customers do actually care about these things
Pots of Tea
Update: I’ve sent them an email, and now we shall wait for their response 🙂
Thank you for your support and encouragement
You’re very welcome :). Keep us updated
This definitely makes you think long and hard about stuff. In a perfect world, people who make and produce our clothes and household items are treated with dignity and respect and are getting paid fair wages. Unfortunately, we do not live in such a perfect world and people are working in deplorable conditions and not getting paid hardly anything for the hard work they are doing. It is very unfair and there must be something that can be done about this. I wonder if organizations like the U.N really investigated stuff like this, would it change anything…or would they just ignore the problem?
Pots of Tea
From my poor knowledge, I just think the UN set guidelines that aren’t implemented by them, but can be used as a weapon of defence when someone wants to take others to court. The poor souls who slave away, can implement these by taking their employers to court, because of the UN’s laws, and so they would have a case that they could fight. However how many people could afford to take that risk and afford to even get support to fight that fight. It’s all a pretty mad world.
Maybe we just need to learn to fight for other’s rights. Though I think it’s more of a direct fight with those who cause harm, rather than those who can right more rules. Rules and laws are great, but we need more people who can implement them.
I didn’t think about all of that.
Pots of Tea
To be honest, neither did I. It only just occurred to me from your comment.
I think first asking the questions is great place to start. I began. Logging about ethical fashion and sustainability this year and I still have trouble with what I post because I wonder, can I trust what these companies are saying? Who’s fact checking? And who is investigating to make sure everything is truthful. I will continue to search for and support brands that make ethical practices and sustainability their priority. I think that eventually the truth will come to light. If you want to get an idea of some good brands to try, take a look at my blog! Thank you for the great post!