The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGS) are a set of objectives that aim to improve working and living conditions globally, by addressing issues like poverty, workers’ rights, and climate change. Fair Trade USA standards promote direct and meaningful impact within six SDG areas. Of these 6, Mightly’s practices promote Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, and Goal 12: Responsible Production and Consumption.
A lot of media attention has been given to the exploitative working conditions at clothing manufacturing factories. Women do a majority of the production labor, by margins of 80-95% in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. Managerial positions are primarily held by men, creating a gender-based hierarchy between management and the workforce. This imbalance of power is one of many factors that make it challenging for garment workers to voice complaints about hazardous working conditions. A worker may even be blacklisted from working in any major factory if she makes a complaint about just one of them.
Mightly’s organic children’s clothes are made in Fair Trade CertifiedTM factories, which ensures that workers have protection from unsafe conditions and toxic management practices. Brands and factories must be committed to non-discrimination, gender equality, and women’s economic empowerment to qualify for Fair Trade Certified status. Fair Trade Certified factories must also provide safe, healthy workspaces - a requirement that is more important than ever in Covid times. By requiring safe and ethical treatment for garment makers, Fair trade practices promote decent working conditions.
Other obstacles that stand in the way of decent work and economic growth are low wages, and a lack of job security for workers in clothing factories. While textile manufacturing has grown in developing countries, garment workers have not seen a financial benefit from the increase in demand. 90% of garment workers are not being paid the National Minimum Wage and they are frequently employed under temporary contracts. Factory workers in the textile industry are not being paid enough to have financial security, and they are ill equipped to seek fair compensation as their employee status is at constant risk. These conditions make job mobility impossible for garment workers in a majority of textile factories.
Fair trade standards go beyond the conventions of the International Labor Organization by ensuring that workers earn a Fair Trade Premium for every Fair Trade Certified product they make. The Fair Trade Premium can fund social, environmental, or economic development projects that benefit factory workers, farmers, their families, and wider communities. The premium can also go directly back to the workers in the form of bonuses. Workers elect a Fair Trade Premium committee that is in charge of deciding how the premium fund is spent. The Fair Trade Premium promotes economic growth by using money earned from the sale of Fair Trade goods to improve the lives and communities of the people who are actually making Fair Trade Certified products.
In order to truly be an ethical company, the production process must be people friendly and planet friendly. In addition to being Fair Trade Certified, Mightly operates under a set of rigorous environmental regulations in order to comply with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). GOTS is accepted as the global leader of processing standards for organic textiles. Mightly’s cotton comes from the Chetna Organic Farmers Association, a farmer-owned nonprofit that works with smallholder farming families in rain-fed regions of India. Chetna farmers practice regenerative farming methods and use 71% less water and 62% less energy than non-organic cotton farming.
Before you rush to replace everything in your closet with organic, Fair Trade Certified clothing, remember that the most sustainable piece of clothing is the one that you already own. Ethical consumer practices revolve around making your products last longer. For clothing this means mend and thrift items, swap with your friends, and hand garments down to younger siblings and friends when your kids grow out of them. When you must buy new, purchase from companies that produce durable items using ethical and sustainable manufacturing practices. Read labels, and research companies before making purchases. You can also use the Good On You directory to check the ethical rating of many popular clothing brands. You won’t find Mightly there just yet, but we have submitted our brand information to Good On You and we are looking forward to being reviewed.
Mightly promotes responsible consumer habits by focusing production on everyday essential items like organic cotton underwear and pjs that are hard (and perhaps not desirable) to buy second hand. Mightly builds these essentials better, by using durable fabrics and smart designs that keep garments in good condition longer. In other words, Mightly’s Fair Trade Certified clothing is hand-me-down friendly.
Being an ethical consumer is a challenging practice. It’s difficult to research every single product you purchase, and oftentimes, brands may not be quite as ethical as they advertise. Not all planet friendly companies treat their employees fairly, and not all people friendly companies are environmentally conscious. Fair trade makes buying better easier. When you see the Fair Trade Certified label, that means that a brand is committed to practices that protect workers and do less damage to the planet. Buying Fair trade is just one of a handful of actions consumers can take to add a little bit of harm reduction to their shopping habits.
"I enjoy being on the FT committee. My fellow workers share their ideas with me on how we can implement premiums to help the community. I have received 4 years of Fair Trade premiums and every time, I'm proud to have been part of the program. The first year when we received the premium, I purchased a bicycle for my son, Kaushik Das. He was so happy. When he's happy, I'm happy. I never thought I would buy a bicycle before I had the extra funds from the premium. Since then, I've put my premiums into savings for the future, which is what a lot of the workers favor - helping themselves in the long term. All the workers are thankful for the Fair Trade system and appreciate the chance to take part in a meaningful work arrangement."
Deepali Das, 33, from Kolkata, West Bengal, has worked for 6 years at the Paridhan factory of Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills. She has been on the Fair Trade committee for 1 year.