When I think of Fair Trade, I typically think about food, but clothing gets at least as much attention as far as sweat shops go and unsafe conditions as food companies, if not more.
Fair trade works with companies to ensure that everyone who works for them and for the companies they outsource to are treated fairly and make a fair wage. According to Dawn Manske, founder and CEO of Made for Freedom, a company that sells goods made by human trafficking survivors, there are three types of products–products that benefit slavery, products that don’t, and products that benefit those who survived.
According to Kimberly Mok (2010) on Treehugger, these are the 7 companies you should avoid shopping, due to their unethical practices regarding slave labor:
7. Walmart. Yep, we start right off with the big one. Although Walmart has made great strides to improve things, they still have a long way to go. But with Walmart being one of the most common place to shop for groceries and for clothes, where can you go then? For groceries Trader Joe’s, Wegman’s, or Costco, or even your local family grocer. For clothes, check out Good & Fair, Patagonia, Sevenly, & Made For Freedom. For more ideas, check out these links:
6. Calvin Klein. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t shop at Calvin Klein or buy this brand even before I knew about their poor practices, but if you need an alternative, the art of simple link above will give some alternatives. It covers pretty much all areas.
5. Limited Brands, which produces for: Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Express, and The Limited. Ah, perhaps another tricky one. Of these, I’ve only really shopped at Bath & Body Works on occasion, but I won’t even be shopping there that much now that I know who makes their products. Some alternatives to these brands: Hanes, Arbonne, Burt’s Bees, The Body Shop, and any of the listed clothing brands listed as alternatives to Walmart.
4. Nike. Although Nike is making improvements, I’m not sure they have come far enough to move off of this list. Most everyone remembers the scandal of the late 1990’s involving Nike and sweat shops. Enough said. If you need another high end brand of sneakers, you’re probably better off with Adidas or Reebok.
3. The Gap, which also includes Old Navy and Banana Republic, 2. Abercrombie & Fitch, & 1. H & M–I’ve never been a fan of any of these brands, but if you are, and don’t want to shop at the alternatives, there is something else you can do–get busy on social media. Tweet or facebook your favorite brand and ask them where your clothes, shoes, food, etc. is coming from. Who is making them? Demand fair wage and humane treatments for the workers overseas who are making your clothing–because that’s just it. Most of the companies in the US outsource to factories overseas to save money. Some of them are not even aware that sweatshops are making their goods–the sweatshops may be contracted through subsidiaries, so the companies themselves may not even know where their products are being made. Send tweets; demand transparency. Post on their facebook page–make a lot of noise!
And what if you simply cannot afford the higher end brands that are listed as alternative? This is what I wanted to know, because I rarely buy clothes and when I do, I look for the cheapest prices possible to save money. Dawn Manske (Made For Freedom) had the answer. She said that the problem is with “fast fashion” or buying clothes that you only wear once, and then get rid of. She continues on to say that by buying clothes second hand, you are stepping outside of that chain, and to only shop at high end stores once or twice a year as a special treat and to buy good, quality fabrics that will last a long time.
A special thanks to Dawn Manske for her contributions to this article! A little more about Dawn Manske and what she does: