SEATTLE, Washington — In developing countries in Asia and Africa, workers that mass produce everyday items for consumers live a life of poverty. Nearly 250 million young children from the ages 5 to 14 are engaged in sweatshop child labor. Some sweatshop workers only make around $.03 per hour worked, sometimes even getting a delayed paycheck. Despite the devastating reality for the lives of sweatshop workers, there are ways that consumers can make conscious decisions that help reduce sweatshop poverty.
Consumers may come across a Fairtrade Label on many items, like a bag of rice, a pack of gum or countless other everyday products. Products with a Fairtrade label indicate that the product was sustainably and ethically made rather than in a sweatshop that breaks labor laws. The company closely monitors the entire process of manufacturing a Fairtrade product. It ensures that there are no violations of labor laws and regulates licenses and supplies.
Most importantly, Fairtrade farmers and workers are paid fairly for the work that they perform. Globally, nearly two million people are Fairtrade workers, which stretches to 73 countries and territories. From those areas, more than 35,000 items are certified and available for consumers to buy. Fairtrade workers are a part of a program called the Fairtrade Living Income Strategy, which focuses on paying liveable wages to its workers in hopes of diminishing the income gap.
The cocoa and coffee industries have widespread exploitation of workers. However, Fairtrade sustainably pays its workers with incomes that are liveable and productive. Fairtrade is also able to maximize farm yields by growing more produce on less land. This allows for other sources of income from utilizing the newly empty land space. Consumers making better buying decisions based on where their everyday products come from can help Fairtrade workers earn livable wages.
Sustainable Clothing Versus Fast Fashion
Fast fashion refers to when clothing companies produce tons of clothing without much regard to the quality and even less for the workers involved in manufacturing the pieces. People that work in the physical labor portion of the fast fashion industry are overworked and underpaid. They barely have enough time to do basic necessities such as using the restroom or hydrating. While fast fashion is affordable and available to a wider array of consumers, the process of creating a piece of clothing has a dark background.
On the other hand, sustainable clothing companies take ethical production techniques into account. Not only are sustainable fashion companies like Reformation and Patagonia environmentally friendly but these companies pay their workers liveable wages. With more than $35 billion going toward clothing purchases every single day in the U.S., people taking sustainability into account could lead to supporting companies that pay their workers fairly over ones that do not. Consumers can be on the lookout for Fairtrade label products on their clothing as well since the fashion industry heavily uses cotton, one of the largest Fairtrade products available.
While sustainable clothing might not come with the cheap price tag of a fast-fashion piece, sustainable clothing products can bring consumers peace of mind. It ensures that impoverished workers are getting the pay they deserve for their labor. Fairtrade certified products are here to serve consumers by ensuring quality products. However, most importantly, the organization helps provide a healthy work environment and steady income. By making ethical buying choices, consumers can aid in alleviating sweatshop poverty.
– Karina Wong