Monday, 6 May 2013

3 Quick Ways to Act on the Bangladesh Factory Disaster

Over the weekend the 600th body was pulled out of the rubble at the Bangladesh factory that collapsed last week. The reasons behind the tragedy are many and complex, and as the debate on BBC's Question Time showed there's no one place to put the blame. Essentially people died because factory owners tried to cut corners to save money to keep their prices low, so the western companies who sell them could compete with other multinationals by keeping their prices low, knowing that there is a demand for clothes at cheap prices, from us, the consumers, many of whom can't afford to spend more on expensive clothes and so on. But some of us can, yet often the companies don't give us that option.
 
Recently I tried to buy a pair of fairtrade jeans from both Debenhams and Marks and Spencer; partly cos I'm one old enough to shop there rather than somewhere trendier like, well, I'm not even well informed enough to know where would be a credible place to say; partly cos they have/had a name for quality; and partly because when you google fairtrade jeans that's what comes up. Click on through however and they are no longer in stock. Search on the M&S website and you'll find 2-3 sundry items, but no jeans. Read various pages and they'll tell you about BCI cotton, which is neither fairtrade, nor organic, but better, I suppose, than the really cheap stuff.
 
But in the light of last week's disaster I'm no longer content just to shrug disappointedly and head off to TK Maxx, or wait until I'm somewhere more socially aware and see what I can pick up. I know I can google fairtrade jeans and find something else, but I don't want fancy well designed Howie's jeans, I just wants ones that cover my legs.
 
There are of course other options, but I want to get back to this one point: both Debenhams and M&S used to do fairtrade jeans; now they don't. In the light of last week's disaster I want to reestablish my commitment to fairtrade, and I'd like them to do the same. So, I've tweeted them, I'm going to Facebook them and when they get some, I'm going to buy them. Also I'm asking you to do the same, and asking you to ask your friends and so on.
 
So here are three quick things you could do. If you're not a Marks/Debs customer do it to whoever does get your hard earned cash instead.
 
1. Use Social Media to ask them.
We used just to write letters, which was great, but at the end of the day, the company could just stick them in a file, or the bin and no-one else would ever know. These days companies are scared of Facebook and Twitter cos it's there for all to see. They might try and reply, or engage, but there's a good chance they'll take notice. It's public.
 
2. Share it. This week.
We all know how quickly things on the interwebs can gain momentum, and this is the week to do it. No company wants to see themselves aligned with the disaster in Bangladesh, and under pressure companies may well respond.
 
3. Buy it.
In someways it's unfair of me to pick on these two companies; after all everyone does it, and at least they tried. I guess if they had made a lot of money on it they would have kept on doing it. It's actually up to us to buy fairtrade and encourage others to do the same. So I want to redouble my commitment to buy fairly traded clothes. And I'm hoping that after last week both Debenhams and Marks and Spencer's will take a long look at themselves, and decide to do the same.
 
Image by Fahad Faisal used thanks to a Creative Commons licence.