Can ethical clothing effectively fight poverty?
If you look at certain charities, non profit organisations and brands you may initially think that they sell 'ethical' clothing but take a closer peak and you often find that despite an 'organic' label, they are actually made in factories which do not even adhere to basic living wages. When you dig deep and find this, it is an inconsistency and a cutting of corners that should not be happening. It is no doubt better than fast fashion brands simply moving their logo and trying to mass produce another 50,000 tees each year but still, we can do better and it flies in the face of the supposed intention of that organisation when they are doing this.
When we at Origin realised this was happening in the world we all share, we sought the most ethical supply of t-shirts available and for some time, this was through wholesale providers, of which there are a small available list. However, as we could not find concrete evidence of true ethics in business down to the ascertained fine detail, we needed to go one step further and create our own chain, which we have personally visited and seen with our own eyes. This way, we could be sure that, while working to generate profits (which I will come to in about 2 paragraphs), we were not causing any collateral harm. In fact, we were generating intrinsic opportunity within that production process itself as jobs creating rain-fed cotton garments from an entirely ethical supply chain in which garment workers are all paid above the living wage and work in suitable working conditions (from the physical building which is often the first thing that springs to mind when we talk about this but also down to duration of contracts and integrity of employers not to fire women when they announce pregnancy, yes this is happening! This topic is complicated and often not given due consideration in terms of its complexity but, in general, if a brand isn't talking about the good attributes of their supply chain, it simply is not happening so beware).
So, ethical garments made responsibly and safely can, in this way not cause intrinsic harm themselves and they can generate good jobs both for people who wish to go career in textiles and garment working but also for others who wish to use it as a stepping stone job into other things- this is also really common. Many of the garment workers we interviewed in Kenya had different ultimate goals but their current jobs in clothing production were providing them with stability and opportunity to save and develop themselves for the future and unleash their entrepreneurial selves.
Next, the profits! Latest empirical research points towards cash donations to entrepreneurs who have links to a training initiative of some sort. Yes, this is broad but the permutations of generating opportunity in the global south are beyond broad, they are infinite and Origin's latest research and garments workers surveys have demonstrated that. So, our profits are both shared with the supply chain organisations and, the third that stays with Origin is donated to social business entrepreneurs who have been highlighted and interview within in Entrepreneur Hub system- a system run by local people with local knowledge with respect to culture, language, tradition and business context.
This Entrepreneur Hub System is something we are working hard to develop but essentially allows opportunities to be identified more appropriately and with greater respect to cross cultural working as opposed to a historical power relationship between cultures where global northerners previously decided upon opportunity for global southerners. This is something we are determined to develop and learn more and more about. We may never perfect it but we will simply not stop learning as it is crucial to what Origin is trying to achieve for others: To generate opportunity for inspiring individuals and communities from more disadvantaged backgrounds for autonomous self ejection from poverty states both for themselves and those around them.
If you believe in what we do at Origin, the best things you can do are:
1. Spread the word of Origin to friends, family, social media, media, etc,
2. When you need a garment or a friend needs a garment as a gift, look to Origin as your first choice knowing the multitude of benefits that comes with that positive choice,
3. If you want to engage with us further, feed back to us or work with us in any other way, get in touch, we would love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will always get back to you!