21 October, 2016

What is Fairness: Giving Voice to the Unheard Worker

prathiba india
by By Shamini Dhana, Founder and CEO, Dhana Inc., Associate Producer of the True Cost movie, Climate Ride Ambassador and Executive Council Member of Ellevate

Throughout October’s Fair Trade Month, we are featuring Fairness Champions, people from all walks of life with a unique perspective on what’s ‘fair’. Today Shamini Dhana of Dhana, Inc. asks, "Where is the connection and conversation today between the end customer and the people behind the scenes who make the products we consume daily?"

This is a question that is being asked frequently by consumers who are realizing that brands and companies are not providing information about their supply chains and how they treat their workers who are part of the process in making these products.

Clearly, consumers have been sold for decades on the benefits of the product including style, performance, quality, durability, and even the after sales service. Additionally, consumers have been enticed and subjected to many a rewards program as well as how companies are “giving back” through charities with every purchase. All these efforts focused on ‘after the point of sale’ have been geared to drive customer acquisition and in turn increase sales and thereby profits.

The phenomenon of business profiting at the expense of people and planet has led to a severe disconnect between consumers, brands and workers. In fact, there is an increasing issue on the ability to trust brands and companies today by consumers and the system of capitalism is being questioned.

With discontent comes the need for a real solution – one that speaks to the whole journey from source to sale; from service to saluting everyone along the journey. 

An Alternative to Business as Usual

Welcome to the B the change movement – people using business as a force for good in the world. This movement is called B Corps, for-profit companies certified by the non-profit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Certification means they have met performance and legal requirements and have signed a declaration of Interdependence and term sheet. According to the B Corporation site, there are over 1,700 companies from 50 countries in over 130 industries that have been certified.

As the owner of certified B Corp Dhana Inc., which is an ethical sustainable fashion brand for our youth, it is my commitment to impact people and planet in a profound and positive way through our clothes. As one in six people on this planet work in connection with the apparel world, which is also the second most polluting industry, there is great concern that the magnitude of environmental destruction is not only immense, but the workers behind our clothes have been exploited for the benefit of brands to make a profit. Today there are 60 million garment industry workers in the developing world of which 80 percent are women. Over half of the global apparel brands are doing nothing to ensure a living wage for these workers.

The recent full-length, award-winning documentary “The True Cost” released in 2015 sheds light on the real cost associated with making a piece of clothing, including the impact on the workers and the environment. This movie was a direct response to the Rana Plaza tragedy of April 24, 2013 which killed 1,130 and considered the deadliest garment accident in history.

“The building’s owners ignored warnings to avoid using the building after cracks had appeared the day before. Garment workers were ordered to return the following day, and the building collapsed during the morning rush-hour.” These workers had no voice and despite repeated warnings by these same workers, they were ignored. Their deaths signify the absence of decent human rights for garment workers not only in Bangladesh, but for all workers across the globe in developing countries.

This is all about to change with technology bringing awareness to behind the scenes through social media networks and consumers demanding greater transparency of supply chains. The B Corp movement is about to launch a whole new media platform, “B the Change Media,” sharing stories of people using business as a force for good and providing solutions to both social and environmental challenges. What is truly extraordinary about this launch pad is consumers across the globe will be able to learn more about supply chains and the stories of people who make our products as well as connect with brands and business.  

Important questions for your clothes

In the case of fashion, consumers will be able to ask the following questions of brands:

  • Who made my clothes?
  • How were my clothes made?
  • Were the workers treated with respect?
  • Did the workers receive a fair or living wage?
  • What were the safety conditions for the workers?
  • Were the workers given an opportunity to be heard, to provide feedback and be part of the decision making process?
  • What environmental impact was there in the making of my clothes?

It is time for change. It is time to hear from the workers who are the fabric of our lives.

Every day, the clothes we wear remind us of our connection to People and Planet.

I pledge to give a voice to the unheard worker.

Together we will celebrate the journey of people and their contributions to society at large and towards a sustainable planet.

We invite you to be the Change, share the stories of the hearts and hands behind our clothing, give workers a platform to be heard and together we can Unite People Through Fashion.

This blog originally appeared on The United State of Women blog.


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