In this ready made, factory sealed, consumer driven existence of ours, do we ever stop to consider who exactly made the wares we buy?
Which pair of human hands made these clothes? What lives do they lead? Have I contributed in any way to their livelihood by purchasing these garments? Or are they being exploited?
Most of us go about our lives simply buying things by style, price or need. We forget that, as consumers, we have a very important role. As consumers, we get to vote for the kind of world that not only do we want to see for ourselves, but even more for the future generations.
Why do most high street brands make enormous amounts of profit, but still don’t support their workers? We’re very much in a situation where the people in developed countries can get cheaper products, while those in third world countries don’t get to benefit in any way from their hard work.
Let’s break it down into simple steps:
1. Company A wants to maximise their profits and offer competitive prices to their customers.
2. Most people in undeveloped countries are desperate for work, as they’re struggling to sustain themselves and their families.
3. Company A, instead of helping these people and giving them a fair wage to help them rise out of poverty, takes advantage of how desperate for work they are and hardly pays them any money to survive and exploit them in inhumane working conditions.
4. The workers, knowing that everyone is desperate for work, don’t really have a choice but to submit. They need that job, and if they say no, Company A will simply go and find other workers who will agree, leaving them with nothing.
The majority of these workers earn an average of €2 a day. Can we acknowledge how disgusting this is? This same scenario can be replicated when we bargain for a lower price for a product or service in countries like India. We know that in Europe, we’d buy that same product for probably twice as much, but we still ask for a reduced price. Of course; they don’t really have a choice, even if it means they’ll not be making any profits. They want cash in hand. They want to be able to provide for their families. So yes, they’d prefer a sale without any profit than to leave idle stock and not get anything for it. So the next time we’re in a situation like this, let’s pay a fair price and stop taking advantage of cheap products and services – and this includes me, by the way.
Then, there’s the environmental impact. The world currently consumes around 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. Fast fashion took us in, new collections come out very often, and we just buy uncontrollably, because why not? Let’s remind ourselves that fashion is the second most polluting industry, just after oil.
So how do we fix this?
We start thinking before buying. We start believing that we have the power to contribute to change this. We start choosing fair trade brands and supporting social businesses. We stop thinking that our decisions aren’t really going to make an impact, because if everyone thinks like that, nothing will ever change. If there are a billion people believing that their choices matter, we already have a billion people making that step – and when these businesses see that people are choosing humanity, love and compassion, they’ll have to make that step too.
We can start changing the world simply by purchasing wisely.