Introducing The Next Generation Of Leaders And Thinkers

You Are Holding People’s Lives in Your Hands

Let’s think of money as a voting slip in the election of company funds. There have been countless posts, videos and tweets appealing to people from all around the world to vote for what they think matters, so it shouldn’t be hard to imagine the importance of where you place these votes. Or, in this case, your money.

Pretend money is your voting slip, who do you believe in?

Companies run on money. If you don’t like something, stop buying from the company. It sends a message that you can more readily communicate as opposed to a protest that doesn’t make a dent in the funds. Although I’m not denying that protests are important as well. The fact of the matter is though, a great deal of companies care about their public image because it brings in the cash. They only want to have good relations with their customers, because it means they’ll spend more.

The rise of globalisation has made accessibility simple. Sushi is available in England, McDonalds are littered across Japan and you can find the clothing brand American Eagle in China. It’s not difficult to get an entire week’s worth of goods in one shopping trip. However, something that most people don’t realise is that this ease of access comes with a price. Particularly in the fashion industry. While some people are showing off their cheap yet stylish clothes, others putting their lives at risk to make them.

Bangladeshi clothing workers predominantly earn approximately £25 per month. Not only is this figure way below the minimum wage in the countries that the clothes will then be sold in, but the conditions of the factories that they work in would never pass those country’s health and safety tests. According to the New York Times, a fire alert was raised in a Bangladeshi factory in November 2012 and the building owner simply padlocked the door. “He is lying,” Abedin, a former worker, recalls the factory owner saying when the issue was raised. Twelve of her coworkers died in that fire. In 2013, almost a year later on April 24th, the Rana Plaza collapsed. It was responsible for taking 1,129 lives and it caught the attention of international media. This was a tragedy that promised change.

The international coverage prompted huge brands like H&M, Walmart and Gap to promise that they work on improving the lives of those who manufactured their clothing. Despite that, in 2015, two years after the Rana Plaza collapse, H&M still had 79,000 workers in factories without proper fire exits. Primark, a company that paid out $12m in compensation after the collapse, has raised its profit margins by £148m from 2013 to 2014. This makes their total revenue £662m. Considering the fact that $12m is around £9m, the sum that they paid for those worker’s lives is nothing more than a drop in the ocean to them. It appears that as long as the media isn’t covering it, profit is still more important than human lives.

The terrible part is, these companies aren’t being held accountable for their actions. More often than not, they will refute the idea that impacted factories were employed by them and state that they were hired by a second party. John Oliver sums this up nicely when he compares it to an alternative situation: “If a child gained entry to a bar using a pinkberry punch card as a fake ID, it’s the f*cking bar’s fault.” Companies should be held responsible for their actions.

Comparatively, when you look at what consumers value, it appears that ethical concerns are generally not an issue. In fact, ethical conditions seem to devalue the products, making them seem boring and undesirable. According to a study done by Walker and Zane, people choose to remain “willfully ignorant” when it comes to the topic of child labour. A co-researcher Reczek commented on how their participants rated others who looked into a company’s sustainability before buying clothing, “They judged ethical consumers less positively on positive traits and more negatively on negative traits.” This causes companies to follow suit.

Gucci, who in 2015 had switched to the more sustainable polyurethane as opposed to PVC, did not highlight this to their customers. Instead they have a small mention that their bags are now created through an “earth conscious process” and regards to huge, luxury brands – going more sustainable simply seems to be the next step in their business plan. Either there are hang-ups on announcing that they are, in fact, sustainable or they simply don’t see it as something that their customers need to know. This is an idea that has been denounced by Gucci’s parent company, Kering, who has released a report citing an increase of sales when sustainability is announced.

Referring back to how consumers view the issue, some argue that purchasing for companies that are classified as ‘fast fashion’ is the only way for some individuals to stay clothed. This argument is valid, as some people’s budgets do not allow extra expenses for clothing over a certain price as they need to eat, live and pay bills. However the idea that contributing in fast fashion and, to put it plainly, encouraging slavery is necessary to stay fashionable is not only narrow minded but dangerous.

Claiming that you’re not able to afford alternative clothing options, all the while adding to your wardrobe every month is questionable in the least. While you’re shopping at these fast fashion companies where you can get tops for $5 and jeans for $15, consider how long the item of clothing is going to last. Consider how many times you’re going to wear it and how many different outfits it can be incorporated into. Consider the people who made it.

Please remember that fads are not worth people’s lives.

It can be difficult to find cheap alternatives to shopping within fast fashion stores, so here is a small list to get you started:

  • Ebay: You can find a huge variety of everything on here.
  • Charity / Op Shops: They’ll almost always have the basics, and who knows? People have been known to find designer goods at a fraction of the price.
  • Depop: Cluttered with real people, it shouldn’t be too hard to find people with the same taste in clothes as you.
  • Swap with a friend / family member: Extremely convenient.
  • Upcycle: There are plenty of tutorials online.
  • Etsy: The designs here are beautiful, brand new and you’re giving back to the community at the same time.


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