There is no doubt that ethical consumption has become a growing part of the conversation around the textile and fashion industry in recent years. But how much of this is a trendy buzz-word used by companies large and small to entice increasingly ethically-conscious consumers, and how much of it is authentic, pro-active movement for change?
Debate around the ethics of textiles and fashion is a long-standing and many-fold one. It can however be broken down into two main concerns, namely the increasingly devastating impact it has on the environment, as well as distressing levels of abuse of working conditions and practices of the workers in the developing countries.
As an ethically-conscious brand, Playful promises aims to contribute to affecting real, tangible change. Not only all of our factories ethically audited, but we have also put in the research to ensure that we donate to the very best organisations advocating practical change to communities, countries and aspects of environmental impact that need it most. As a part of this effort, Playful Promises donates boxes – sometimes numbering in their dozens or hundreds, to organisations such as Traid and Giving World Online, both of which have a proven, long-standing record of affecting change in the areas we feel passionate about. We do this several times a year to ensure that our continued, practical support can help make a difference.
So what change can we, as a fashion brand, affect? Most people have likely, by now, either heard of or have investigated in some depth the impact their consumer choice has on the environment and the working conditions of workers in the developing world. The case is evident none more so than in fashion and textile industry where surplus or unwanted garments are amassed in huge landfills, the environment is being polluted with synthetic fibre, and the workers producing the garments are frequently working in unsafe and unhealthy conditions, often underpaid and being subject to questionable working practices. Women, and frequently, children, bear the brunt of such working conditions, and we could not call ourselves feminist if we were not doing our outmost to improve the working, economic and social conditions of women making our garments for us.
Traid aims to reduce the negative environmental and ethical impact of the textile industry by working towards the aim of increasing textile recycling for aid and international development. This is achieved through a number of ongoing projects, such as ending child and forced labour use in countries such as India, by encouraging large brands to focus on transparency of their supply chain. While the difficulties of monitoring the entirety of a lengthy production chain of a garment are notorious, funding initiatives such as supply chain mapping ensures that a more ethical change can be affected.
Another successful ongoing project that has been funded by Traid over the last three years has focused on expanding sustainable cotton production in countries such as Ethiopia, by supplying the funding and tools to the farmers to convert to organic, non-GM cotton farming, hence reaping the health, environmental and economic benefits of higher-value Fairtrade cotton. Ethiopia is set to increase its organic cotton production in the coming years, and we here at Playful Promises cannot encourage our fans enough to become ever-more aware as consumers, to check your garment labels and support such initiatives with your purchases. Funding and donations from ethically-conscious and eco-friendly brands like ours make all the difference.
Giving World Online focuses on similar causes closer to home, with their ethos of working towards “a society in which no one is in want because nothing is wasted”. The organisation works with a number of charities and local community groups to redistribute surplus goods from businesses and corporations within the UK, affecting a positive change within poorer UK communities as well as helping to stem the catastrophic rise of landfill sites. And this is where we, as a small brand, feel we can help make a difference.
The last report from Giving World has assessed our last donation, with our contribution of 530 garments coming to the value of £2120, which was able to help 270 women. Supporting women across the world – the members of the workforce who are frequently the most marginalised, underpaid, undereducated and abused - is very much part of our ethos and feminist credentials.
Women supporting other women – however small the business or however seemingly fledgling the initiative - is one of the best incentives we can think of to affect some real, long-lasting change.