Globalisation was sold to us as a win-win for everyone. Consumers in the West would get access to cheap products, and workers in developing countries would be given an opportunity to climb out of poverty through growing jobs in local farms, factories and supply chains. One look at the fashion industry today and it’s clear to see something has gone drastically wrong. The neverending rise of fast fashion and the inevitable impact on workers, pay, exploitation and huge costs to the local and wider environments has helped to spawn a new industry - often described as ‘ethical’, ‘sustainable’
or ‘eco’ fashion - to help turn the tide and support local workers, communities and the environment. Producers of ethical fashion aim to pay workers a fair wage for a fair day's work in a clean, safe and dignified job. As well as considering the impact on local environment when farming, producing and shipping clothing. The majority of fast fashion production sees poorly paid workers in unsanitised and dangerous conditions with forced overtime, exploitation and abuse. There is also little consideration for the environment, with thousands of tons of wastewater dumped every week.
So before you decide to buy your next t-shirt, let’s take a look at how it arrived on the rail, and what the true cost of production really was...
A typical ‘fast fashion’ t-shirt will be produced using non-organic cotton, meaning it is treated with pesticides which can cause health problems for the many farmers who aren't provided with protective workwear.
Farmers on organic cotton farms are spared from health problems caused by chemicals typically used to grow cotton
Ethical t-shirts made with organic cotton will have significantly less traces of chemicals left on after production
T-shirts produced using ethical practices are much less damaging to the local environment and communities
Cotton growers are exposed to toxic chemicals that are used during farming and production
Chemicals used during production can be left on the t-shirt, which are associated with cancer, hormone defects and birth defects
Fast fashion farming can have a significantly negative impact on the local and wider environments
It's hard to believe, but the fashion industry is now the world’s second largest polluter, second only to the oil industry.
Wastewater is disposed of safely with the environment in mind
Ethical t-shirt production uses far fewer harmful chemicals
A percentage of the sale going back to improving the local environment
Insecticides and pesticides destroying the local environment
Traces of harmful chemicals left on our clothes
Lakes and rivers drying up due to excessive cotton farming
The shockingly low rates of pay for garment workers remains one of the fashion industry’s biggest problems, and a big focus for ethical fashionistas.
Workers paid a fair wage for a fair day's work
Daily pay in line with recommended living wage, or close to it
Overtime is voluntary and usually paid at an increased rate
Workers paid just $1 - $3 per day
Most workers earning less than 25% of the recommended living wage
Frequent overtime is not paid at an increased rate
Conditions for garment workers in developing countries are some of the worst in the world. In a recent study in Bangladesh, 75% of female workers reported verbally abused at work and half had been beaten
Workers required to attend work for a maximum of 8 hours per day
Producing clothing in a clean and safe environment
Working towards achievable targets with employee wellbeing in mind
Workers under immense pressure to hit often unrealistic targets
Working in dirty, unsafe and abusive circumstances
Forced over time up to as late as 2am, from an 8am start.
With that in mind, the next time you fancy a fresh new t-shirt for the weekend, will you buy ethical or fast?
Shirtworks has been working hard over the last 10 years to bring ethical T-shirts to the ‘volume’ print and embroidery market in the UK and Europe. We are one of only a very small handful of garment decorators in the World that holds the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) accreditation as well as Soil Association approval for the sale of organically farmed and produced cotton along with approved print and embroidery processes and materials.
Unfortunately it is not possible to survive as a business selling accredited garments only as the demand is still too low. Wherever possible, we encourage you to select from our ethical range but we do know that it is not always possible, usually for budget reasons so we also stock garments from credible and openly transparent factories who have high standards if not the full ethical audit and accreditation.
More information can be found here
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