Fashion Factfiles #4: WHERE DO YOUR DONATED CLOTHES REALLY GO?

Hey guys, another Fashion Factfiles post! This month, I’m changing it up a bit.

Alright don’t get too excited.

Lol but yeh, this month we won’t be looking at serious issues within the production of garments themselves, but rather what happens to much of our clothing once we’re done with them and have donated it to charity.

Oh you thought they’d all be sold and bought by people to reuse?

Not exactly.

Welcome to another episode of: Calling out the West and its neo-colonial practices!

Continue reading “Fashion Factfiles #4: WHERE DO YOUR DONATED CLOTHES REALLY GO?”

Why I stopped advocating Fairtrade

Hey guys!

So it’s the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight, and what better way to celebrate than with a blog on why Fairtrade ISN’T that great yayayayyy!

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Ngl, I really hate raining on people’s parade; I know how it feels being so passionate about Fairtrade, it’s purpose, how you’re changing people’s lives etc. Believe me, your girl was part of her borough’s Fairtrade group and used to go round selling Fairtrade Palestinian dates (they bang). However, to then be presented with a lot of fundamental issues revolving Fairtrade, how can I, as someone who wants to do right to workers around the world, ignore this and continue campaigning just to feel that satisfaction of doing ‘something’, regardless of whether it was effective?

By now I’m sure the ethical scene think I’m trolling them lol but honestly, I hope most of you will understand why I’m eager to address why Fairtrade presenting themselves as a solution to poverty reduction is problematic.

Anyways, I’m gonna end that monologue, and get straight into it. LEGGOOOO.


Conditions in Fairtrade farms ain’t that fair tbh

See the source image

Professor Christopher Cramer from SOAS university conducted research evaluating the impact Fairtrade has had on its producers in Uganda and Ethiopia to find some shocking results. 

So Fairtrade emphasise how we as consumers can help small-holder producers (farmers with small farms) out of poverty by increasing their income from crop production. However, Fairtrade tend to paint all small-holder producers with the same, romanticised brush (that’s the phrase right?), ignoring the fact that all farmers and their holdings are different, with different conditions, characteristics etc. (standard Western approach to the Global South). 

For example, some small-holder producers actually operate on land at least 20x larger than others, and even employ many workers. This goes against the stereotypical Fairtrade, romanticised image of a small-holder farmer working hard producing with his family on a small farm right? In fact, these capitalist farmers, with hired labour and particular farming methods, dominate production, and receive a lot of aid and support, due to their ability to produce more.

Farmers are part of a cooperative (association owned and run jointly by its members) where benefits and profits from Fairtrade should be shared equally. However, in reality, it is the small group of large producers just mentioned who usually occupy leading roles in the cooperatives, controlling distribution of resources. Instead of incorporating the poor, these cooperatives encourage elitism, with power at the top. And yes, they are usually men.

Another thing. You may be aware that Fairtrade adds a premium onto the price of their products, which is meant to be invested into development projects, to be decided democratically by producers or workers. However, these premiums usually go towards investments that benefit the largest producers and sellers. Several shocking examples are mentioned. In one case, the premium was used to build a health clinic, but only those who were employed permanently could use it, excluding many of the poor people living nearby who were hired temporarily (e.g. seasonal workers), and were required to pay a fee they could not afford. 

“James, is desperately poor and lives with his elderly father in an inadequate shack close to the tea factory. Although his father was once a temporary worker at the tea factory, James is charged fees at the tea factory’s Fairtrade health clinic. He cannot afford them and instead, although he only has one leg, he hobbles more than 5km to receive free treatment at a government clinic.”

In another case, flush toilets made with premiums could only be used by senior management. 

One finding that is particularly shocking, is the fact that workers in non-Fairtrade farms were actually getting better wages, and treatment, than those producing the same products in Fairtrade farms. For example, female workers in Fairtrade sites were paid 70% of the daily wage earned by those in non-Fairtrade sites, and were offered fewer days of employment. In addition, in Ethiopian farms, only 1% of those working in Fairtrade sites received payments for medical care compared to 11% in other sites and 56% in large-scale state farms. 

There are also reports of poor monitoring of conditions in the farms, allowing these practices to continue. In the only Fairtrade certified estate in Ethiopia, workers’ rights were ignored and management were able to avoid the half-hearted attempts of Fairtrade executives to promote the employees’ interests.

So considering Fairtrade’s passion for poverty reduction, you’d think they would be extremely concerned and grateful for such a report highlighting these alarming findings. APPARENTLY NOT.

Yeh, Fairtrade were pissed. They were extremely defensive, attempted a smear campaign against the researchers, even making a legal threat against them and sending hostile letters. 

SMH.

It continues a relationship of dependency 

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Agro-ecology is a new means of production on farms, applauded by many. It refers to the transition of farming methods from those that focus on producing food to export (send to other countries i.e. the West) using fossil-fuelled methods, to those that encourage production for personal consumption and the local market via more sustainable practices e.g. recycling nutrients. By using such methods and by producing for local consumption and local markets, this reduces farmers’ reliance on external inputs (e.g. fertilisers) and income (e.g. producing solely to make income by exporting produce to the West). Indeed, by producing in a way that allows farmers to actually consume their own produce as well as sell it in their local markets and export, this reduces their dependency on Western markets to help them survive. Fairtrade relies on farmers producing for export purposes, and does little to support farmers in reducing their dependency on the West, in particular, prioritising food sovereignty (the right of people to produce, distribute and consume healthy food in and near their territory in a sustainable manner). Instead, it relies on the very export-production system that encourages dependency, and denies farmers the right to expand beyond small-scale production for Western consumers.

I mean, imagine the abundance of food produced in the Global South, yet the very farmers producing these crops are impoverished and malnourished. Does that not sound ridiculous to you?

Colonial roots

 

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 In Ian Hussey’s anti-capitalist critique of Fairtrade, he argues that Fairtrade marketing reinforces colonial distinctions between the poor Global South farmer and benevolent Global North consumer, failing to address the structures that produce the impoverished state of farmers in the first place. 

He explains that the distribution of power in fair trade is similar to colonial divisions of the globe, with Fairtrade’s focus on former colonies, to be sold in mainstream markets, where decision-making is concentrated. In 2011, 19 of the 24 members that composed Fairtrade International were based in the Global North, with producers having little say in policies, structure and direction of the Fairtrade movement. By producing a system to ‘save’ workers, where most of the decisions are made by the Global North with little say from the very workers its supposed to save, there is literally a red alarm going off screaming neo-colonialism (control of less-developed countries by developed countries through indirect means). 

Fairtrade, therefore, cannot be a means to end poverty, because it continues the global power imbalance of workers in the Global South as dependent on the global North, and most importantly maintains this dependency through perpetuating these divisions, allowing and justifying further control from the North.

Supports the richest

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So lets not deny that the West benefit more from profits made by Fairtrade. Fairtrade is a multi-billion pound business with executives in the UK earning around 500 times the annual amount earned by the workers who produce its commodities. Most of its expenditure goes towards public education and awareness, with its branding and advertising contracted out to a company with clients including Nike and Coca-Cola. The company is loaded. In 2008, with an income of £7.2m, more than £2.1m went on public education and awareness. 

Moreover, while advertisements tend to focus on African and Asian farmers being ‘liberated’ by Fairtrade, the truth is, most of their business is done with Latin America. This is not to undermine Latin America and its troubles, but Ndongo Samba Sylla argues that by favouring Latin America, Fairtrade are favouring richer producers at the expense of the poorest. She argues that since Fairtrade aims to help those already on its ‘path’, the poorer countries it advocates are often neglected as a result. In doing so, Fairtrade is serving and trading with the rich, supporting wealthy farmers at the expense of poorer countries.

Let’s not forget the costs of membership, which entail the cost of certification, annual inspections and compliance with Fairtrade organisational structures. In one cooperative, an executive admitted that after paying for the cooperatives employees and programmes, there was nothing left for individual farmers.

2 Conclude

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For me, the problem with Fairtrade is the fact that it acts as a means to reduce poverty and implies that we as individuals can be part of that change through our consumer actions. While we can probably make lives a bit better, once again we are drawn into the neoliberal ideology that we as individuals and our individual actions are responsible for the worlds problems, taking our attention away from the systematic issues of capitalism and dependency that perpetuate the exploitation of workers.  While workers are often the face of the movement, the research above shows the reality of Fairtrade for many workers, and the response from Fairtrade makes clear their corporate mindset and attitude towards workers as labourers for profit than humans. Indeed, through alternative methods such as agro-ecology, this emphasises the importance of workers sustaining themselves and reducing dependence on the West for survival, which would create a more long-term impact on the lives of workers as opposed to Fairtrade.. 

Most importantly, I want us to change our stance towards Fairtrade as the means by which we will achieve justice, review the colonial connotations of movements that try to ‘save’ workers without acknowledging the agency of workers themselves and their rights, and the need to go beyond dependency on the West. This isn’t an attack on anyone. This is an attack on the system that is allowing such rhetoric to blind us from the structural problems that continue the extraction of commodities at the expense of workers’ rights, in the name of ‘philanthropy’.

 

Resources:

 

Cramer, C. et al (2017). Fairtrade cooperatives in Ethiopia and Uganda: Uncensored. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03056244.2014.976192?journalCode=crea20

Cramer, C. et al (2017). Fairtrade and Labour Markets in Ethiopia and Uganda. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00220388.2016.1208175?needAccess=true

Altieri, M. A. & Toledo, V. C. (2011). The agroecological revolution in Latin America: rescing nature, ensuring food sovereignty and empowering peasants. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03066150.2011.582947

www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/fairtrade-has-thrown-its-toys-out-of-its-cot/15250#.Wpnra0xFzIU

https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/fair-trade-and-empire

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/sep/05/fairtrade-unjust-movement-serves-rich

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/dec/12/fair-trade-fairtrade-kitkat-farmers

Fashion Factfiles #3: The Sumangali System

Hey guys, happy February and welcome to another Fashion Factfiles blogpost!

The Fashion Factfiles is where we expose the brutal realities of the garment industry, the side that the big corporations and big names in fashion work hard to hide behind ‘girl power’ tees and ‘look at us recycling omg we duz care’ campaigns.

This month we’ll be highlighting an issue that many may not be familiar with, but is absolutely horrific and heartbreaking: the Sumangali System.

WARNING: Content regarding sexual abuse and suicide throughout.

Continue reading “Fashion Factfiles #3: The Sumangali System”

LET’S TALK ABOUT ETHICAL FASHION PLS

Ethical fashion: ‘an
approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximises
benefits to people and communities while minimising impact on the environment.’

Ethical Fashion Forum

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(Source: https://airrclothingblog.com/2015/03/06/brand-profile-beaumont-organic-available-at-airr-clothing/)

Wow. Where do I begin?

Actually let me begin with this disclaimer: ANY CRITICISM I MAY MAKE
ABOUT CERTAIN SITUATIONS/ORGANISATIONS/GROUPS OF PEOPLE IS NOT AN ATTACK ON
THESE PEOPLE AS INDIVIDUALS BUT THE SYSTEM FROM WHICH THEY HAVE DERIVED FROM. 

K lets begin.

So I guess you could say I’ve been in/observing the ethical
fashion scene for about 4/5 years now. During my first year of uni I realised I needed to go beyond
complaining about the oppression of garment workers and start acting, and decided to create a blog called Oh So Ethical. My first
thought was to create an ethical fashion blog where I styled outfits I’d made out of
secondhand clothes, and raved about the latest ethical brands I loved (I
cringely called this ‘Fridays Five Ethical Faves’ ffssssssss). After a while I
stopped, but went back into it when my cousins and I realised we needed
somewhere to share our opinions, ideas,and hopefully inspire others to think
and act ethically- and so we rebranded Oh So Ethical and made it what it is today. 

At the beginning I tended to place a large emphasis on ethical brands that we liked and bought from. ‘Ethical is the new black’ was my favourite slogan. However, as the years have gone on, and with more interaction with activists, friends, random people I’ve met, and having witnessed the ongoing exploitation of garment workers continue year after year, I have become extremely cynical of the effectiveness of ethical brands, particularly ‘ethical fashion’.

Indeed, through learning from others and seriously thinking about
ethical fashion, questioning whether it is an actual means of empowerment for
workers,and if it will ACTUALLY dismantle the system of oppression, I have come to a conclusion:

It’s a resounding NO.

Here’s y.


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(Source: https://fashionindustrybroadcast.com/2017/06/12/sustainable-ethical-fashion-faux-has-never-looked-so-real-or-this-stylish/)

I recently read an amazing article in The Guardian by Martin Lukacs, which really helped me understand the underlying processes behind ethical fashion. To sum it up, we live in a neoliberal society, where we are taught to act and thrive individually. When it
comes to activism, we are taught to focus on how we, as individuals, can change
the situation, and are made to feel personally responsible and guilty for the world’s problems.
Due to the guilt created by this individualism,we feel the need to relieve our
guilt by acting in a way that makes us feel better, and as we are seen as consumers (as opposed to citizens) within neoliberal ideology, our means of creating change is through buying and consumption e.g. buying ethical clothing. 

While these individual actions are undoubtedly important, by placing such a great emphasis on individualistic activism, we are intentionally being steered away from focusing on the real perpetrators at large: CORPORATIONS- who are out here exploiting workers and the environment, and continue to get away with it. In turn, we are made to neglect the fact that we need to be targeting the root causes of exploitation, including the deregulation of state power that allows corporations to get away with murder, and the capitalist system that puts profits over people, encouraging exploitation and greed. By steering our attention away from such issues, corporations can continue making profits and getting away with their bullshit, while we discuss the pros and cons of bamboo leggings. (see more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/true-north/2017/jul/17/neoliberalism-has-conned-us-into-fighting-climate-change-as-individuals)  

Author of Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion’ Tansy Hoskins provides a similar discourse, adding that we are encouraged to trust in capitalism to make change and better the world; that companies can be made ethical through our consumer actions. However, the contradiction is that corporations have only become stronger and continue to exploit workers/resources, despite their greenwashing and attempts to come across as ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’. More shopping is not going to free workers from this system. By using consumerism as a sole means of empowering workers, we are utilising the very system that has led to the exploitation of workers in the Global South, namely capitalism, without even acknowledging or striving to challenge or dismantle it. (see more: https://oxfordleftreview.com/olr-issue-14/tansy-hoskins-neoliberalism-and-fashion/)

In an insightful article on White Saviour Complex
and Fair Trade, Bani Amor delves into the colonial connotations of attempts to ‘save’ the world via ethical
companies, which are argued to share parallels with the colonial activities of the West going into the Global South and
attempting to civilise the ‘Other’ with its saviour tactics, thus ensuring domination over the GS and its resources, validating supremacy. I’m not saying ethical companies are going to these countries on colonial conquests, but we really do need to understand the historic relevance of colonialism in interactions between the Global North and South such as these. If you go to these countries, get products made, sell them in the name of ‘liberating workers’ while not giving them a say or listening to them, and continue to stay silent on the structural system that has resulted in your existence as an ethical brand, you are falling into dangerous territory.

The article also reviews research on cause-related
marketing, which is basically when corporations and nonprofit charities combine to
promote sales and causes simultaneously. By tying serious social causes such as poverty and exploitation to making profits, this results in the depoliticising and downplaying of such causes, and provides an undignified, extremely
simplified solution to a complex, very dire situation. 

Finally, one pivotal point made is the fact
that coloured women, through this process of ‘saviourism’ are made both “hypervisible, but also invisible- ‘seen but not known’”. Their existence is highlighted, but they are simultaneously being silenced, as workers are spoken over, dehumanised and patronised by brands and movements that are supposed to be
‘empowering’ them. (read more: https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/spend-save)

In general, the ethical fashion movement tends to solely focus on how we can individually change the industry and ‘save’ workers in a way that utilises and continues to prop up the very system that is screwing workers over in the first place, conflicting with its ‘empowering’ rhetoric.


GREAT SO WTF DO I DO NOW THEN MAYISHA.

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(Source: http://www.vqronline.org/reporting-articles/2014/04/ghosts-rana-plaza)

Okay so I know I’ve painted a very dull image of ethical fashion, and I know not all ethical brands are the same, etc etc. However, when the  industry constantly paints ethical fashion as a positive means to an end, neglecting the issues surrounding ethical fashion, alternative viewpoints are needed.

I get a lot of people asking me for advice e.g. about ethical brands, how to be more ethical etc. Ultimately we want our goods to be made by workers who were treated fairly. Personally, I stick to secondhand- it’s cheaper for me and helps reduce waste in landfill. I do like ethical clothing, and knowing where my clothes/jewellery has come from, but if I do buy ethically I will from now on be seeing what that brand is doing to support garment workers and in calling out corporations, so if you’re an ethical brand prepare for a QnA sesh with ur girl.

One thing I would advise is to not simply boycott the high street- this comes from trade unionists and garment worker activists in Bangladesh. They want to produce garments and a source of income, they just don’t want to be tortured in the process (obviously). At the same time, we cannot deny that our excessive consumption is part of the problem, so if you need a new jacket- please just buy your jacket and not a jacket, 5 tops and 6 dresses because they were half price- really think about your purchases. Being a ‘shopoholic’ is a cute insta aesthetic but its seriously impacting the environment and feeding the system of worker exloitation.

Also acknowledge that a lot of people simply cannot afford to buy ethically, and should not be made to feel guilty for going to primark to buy jeans. 

One thing I also really want to highlight, as you would have probably guessed from the blog, is that our activism is not limited to our purchasing. We need to be vocal, we need to be out there demanding change from corporations, calling them out, exposing them etc. Something as little as a tweet, an email, and insta post can go a long way guys. I know its not in fashion to support such movements (pardon the pun) but we really have to keep pushing- we cannot afford to wait for another Rana Plaza for us to take action.

This might piss people off. I’m sorry. But understand that a few years ago I was the same as the very organisations and brands I’m talking about, and it took criticism like this to understand that I needed to rethink my activism if I were to truly create change. Plus, you feel pretty helpless after hearing of a factory fire every other week, another worker protest because factory owners didn’t pay their workers that month, stories of sexual abuse of young females from management, refugees being exploited, masses of workers fainting simultaneously, and NO ONE CARING. Not even the very people who by default should be sharing and raising concerns about these issues. It’s surreal.

We have groups and regular discussions on twitter that enable ethical brands to get together, support each other and discuss how we can promote ethical brands and use them
etc. It’s nice how such elaborate forms of unity can be created surrounding ethical branding but little is done to address the very problems that has led to the reason these ethical brands exist, and how to put an end to worker exploitation. Again, we are
steering towards ‘solutions’ that aren’t actually solutions, but are utilising capitalism
and perpetuating the neoliberal stance that we need to individually create the
change.

BUN THAT SHIT.

Things are going to start changing.

We are not only going to change the world with our individual practices, we are going to change the garment industry
in a way that emphasises our solidarity and support for garment workers,
creating a mass solidarity movement. We are going to call out corporates when we
clock their messy moves and let them know as consumers we don’t f*ck with them unless they treat their workers with dignity.
We are not going to buy our way to change, we are going to collectively DEMAND it.

We have no choice but to.

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(Source: http://thechronicleherald.ca/world/1126316-bangladeshi-garment-workers-protest-on-may-day)

October Exposé: Coca Cola

Hey guys! Happy October and welcome to another monthly exposé!

This month I am exposing a worldwide fave, a multinational corporation that brings joy and cavities to people of all ages, races etc.

COCA-COLA (CC)

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Can’t lie, I’m not surprised by the content I found regarding their corrupt past and present. However, I am really quite shocked by the extent to which CC has destroyed lives all around the world. Article after article, there’s a lot to take in.

In order to make this a bit more digestible, I’ve summarised everything to the best of my abilty, and provided links if you’re eager to find out more.

Anyways, let’s get straight into it.


Water

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Bottling plants require a large amount of water, 1.9L of water required to make one small bottle of Coca-Cola. This doesn’t even cover all of it, as growing the sugar cane used in their drinks results in an extra 400 litres of water to make a bottle of Cola. 

CC has faced crisis in India, due to their mismanagement of water in the country. It has systemically rinsed villages of their water resources, leaving them with little or toxic water resources. It continues to operate bottling plants in places where the demand for water already exceeds the amount of water available, and proposes new plants in areas where communities already have limited access to safe drinking water. 

However, activists have been taking a stand against Coca Cola. And they’ve succeeded:

Tamil Nadu

In March this year, it was reported that 1m traders in Tamil Nadu, India, were boycotting Coca-Cola and Pepsi drinks after two Indian trade associations called them out for exploiting India’s water resources.

“These foreign companies are using up scarce water resources of the state,” K Mohan, secretary of the Vanigar Sangam, one of the associations supporting the boycott.

Indeed, in January, Tamil Nadu had been declared by officials as ‘drought-hit’, with many villagers suffering as a result.

“[Foreign companies] are exploiting the state’s water bodies to manufacture aerated drinks while farmers were facing severe drought.” Vikram Raja, president of the Vanigar Sangam trade association.

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Kerala

This bold boycott spread to Kerala, where traders also decided to ban the sale of Coca Cola and Pepsi. It was decided that when the boycott was officially approved, sales of beverages and tender coconut produced by locals would be promoted instead. The government was in support of this, and stated it would further restrict the use of groundwater at Palakkad, Kerala.

The region of Plachimada in Palakkad was particularly affected by CC’s activities. A bottling plant was built there in 1999, and CC were permitted to extract up to 1.5mL of water, as well as extract ground water to meet its demands of 3.8L of water for 1L of cola. This led to a decline in the quality of groundwater, with high concentrations of calcium and magnesium ions in the water. The by-product of this was initially sold to villagers as fertiliser However, in 2003, it was found that it contained high levels of toxic metals and the carcinogen cadmium. These problems were extremely problematic to the people living in this region.

“The area’s farming industry has been devastated and jobs, as well as the health of the local people, have been put at risk.”

The reality of the situation can be understood most harrowingly when referring to the account of K Kanniamma, a 70 year old who lived in Plachimada village.

“Before the factory opened here we were dependent on our water requirements on our well. Once the factory opened the water level in the wells started going down. 

Initially, we did not know the reason for it. When we used that water, our eyes and skin had a burning sensation. Only then we realised that our water had been poisoned.”

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70-year-old Kanniamma recounts a time from before the Coca-Cola factory when they had sweet water in their wells

Public anger led to villagers forming the ‘Coca-Cola Virudha Janakeeya Samara Samithy,’ a body fighting for the closure of the factory in Plachimada, in 2002. Awareness camps and torchlight vigils were organised, resulting in several villagers picketing the factory. As a result, Coca-Cola slapped charges against the leaders. 

Listening to the locals, the local self-government organisation (the Perumatty Panchayat) refused to renew CC’s license on account of the exploitation of natural resources thet had affected the public.  However, CC then approached the government’s Local Self-Government Department, who overruled the banning of their licence, and allowed them to continue its operations, as long as it found alternative sources of water supply. Members of the Coca-Cola Virudha Janakeeya Samara Samithy continued to be active and in 2004, the plant in Plachimada was shut. Finally, the 12-year old case reached closure when Coca-Cola gave up its license, stating that it did not intend to resume production from Plachimadia. The activists had succeeded.

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But wait, it gets even better.

In March 2010, a High Power Committee established by the state government of Kerala recommended that CC be fined the equivalent of $48m for damages caused as a result of the company’s bottling operations in Plachimadia. The report stated:

“It is obligatory that they pay the compensation to the affected people for the agricultural losses, health problems, loss of wages, loss of educational opportunities, and the pollution caused to the water resources.”

The report clarified that the compensation suggested did not include damages caused by the reduction in water, and that such damages must be assessed.

The report also agreed that Coca-Cola should be held criminally liable for its  actions in Plachimada.

India’s activists have proved the power of the people. The very fact that they got their governments to stand up against a multinational corporation such as CC is honestly one of the most inspiring things I have ever read.


Sugar Cane

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According to findings from this year,  CC made limited efforts to tackle forced labour risks in their sugarcane supply chain. This includes a high risk of debt bondage imposed on workers in India and human trafficking risks in Guatemala.

For example, CC was unable to provide an example of grievance procedures carried out (procedures where workers could complain about working conditions) when labour abuses were identified. This indicated that workers/suppliers were not properly instructed on complaint procedures. There was also little law enforcement or contracts to protect workers.

Agricultural workers, particularly migrants were most at risk. Indeed, Brazil and India, the two largest sugarcane producers in the world, rely on mostly migrants and rural workers with little education. Workers manually harvest sugarcane under hazardous working conditions, long working hours, and low wages. Lack of language skills and education leave these workers further vulnerable to exploitation and deception over work and wages.

CC was unable to commit to its agreement in 2013 to disclose the names of all its direct sugarcane suppliers within three years. This would enable researchers to conduct extensive research regarding the working conditions under CC’s suppliers.

Israel

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CC has been a staunch supporter of Israel and it’s illegal occupation of Palestine. 

In 2009, CC hosted a special reception at their headquarters to honour General Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who served as Israeli Defence Minister under Ariel Sharon and was in charge of the storming of a refugee camp in 2002, leaving hundreds of Palestinians dead.

Every year, CC financially supports the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce Awards which honors companies that have contributed most to the Israeli economy. In 2009, a CC sponsored award went to the lobbying group AIPAC for its lobbying of the American Senate to reject the UN call for immediate ceasefire and support the continuation of the Israeli assault on Gaza.

Most recently, it has been operating in Atarot and Shadmot Mehola illegal settlements. Israel has been building illegal settlements on Palestinian land since 1967, after it illegally occupied Gaza and the West Bank. This inhuman practice violates international law, and continues to destroy Palestinian lives.

In addition, CC has built a bottling plant in Gaza, which is under siege. This is a problem, as Palestinians in Gaza face a chronic shortage of freshwater, and access to water is limited to 6-8 hours for 1-4 days a week for Gazans. Inevitably, this raises questions regarding the amount of water that is left for Gazans after CC has extracted large quantities from the area. There is also concern regarding the factory’s electricity supply, as the only power plant in Gaza is only able to supply 30% of the population in irregular intervals. It has been indicated that Coke will be given preferential access to water and electricity, and will also be allowed the passage of necessary materials, while essential building materials for hospitals are barred. It is clearly not about creating jobs for Palestinians- if CC truly cared, they would call for the lifting of the siege on Gaza.

Moreover, it has been revealed that Coca Cola sent thousands of dollars ($13,850) to Im Tirtzu, an extremist, pro-settlement Israeli group. This group has described the Nakba (literally translates as ‘the catastrophe’- where an estimated 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes and hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages depopulated and destroyed) as ‘rubbish – a collection of tall tales and myths’. They have also launched smear campaigns against Jewish critics of Israeli policy, accusing them of being ‘planted’ by anti-Israel groups for propaganda and spying. 

For more info on Coca-Cola’s history with Israel and Zionism hit up http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-coca-cola.html#f48

Orange groves

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In 2012, an investigation found that thousands of African migrant workers were being exploited in Italian orange groves. Coca-Cola is one of the major buyers of concentrated orange juice in Calabria which it uses for its Fanta brand in Italy. Many of these workers were refugees who had made the journey across the Mediterranean. They were found earning as little as £21 for a days picking in the orange groves, and that many lived in slum conditions in makeshift camps without power or sanitation, and fell prey to gangmasters who in some cases charged a fee for organising their picking shifts. Pietro Molinaro, head of Coldiretti Calabria, the regional branch of Italy’s national farming union, claimed that previous attempts to raise the issue of low prices and its link to poor working conditions with Coca-Cola had not received a response.

"This area is facing a big problem: the price big companies pay for this juice is not fair. All in all they force the small processing plants in the area – those that squeeze oranges and produce concentrate – to underpay for raw materials.”



Human Rights Violations

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Coca-Cola has a very dark past regarding its human rights violations, and the murder of activists.

Coca-Cola is accused by Colombian courts of financing terrorism for their ties with the now disbanded paramilitary group United Self-Defence Forces of Columbia, hiring hitmen from them between 1990 and 2002 to kill at least 10 trade union leaders who were trying to organise at CC plants. The paramilitary group was responsible for a number of massacres, human rights abuses, kidnappings and extortions that resulted in the displacement of thousands of Colombians.

The human rights violations continue. For example, On June 25, 2015 thugs killed retired Coca Cola worker Wilmer Enrique Giraldo. Wilmer had been injured at work, was forced from his job, received death threats, and fled in fear to Medellin.  Luis Enrique Girado Arango, his father, also worked for Coca Cola and also belonged to a trade union. Paramilitaries assassinated Luis Enrique Girado in 1994.

For more info regarding CC and their attempts to silence trade unions and workers’ actively fighting for justice against CC’s exploitative practices around the world, check out http://www.iuf.org/ccww/?q=taxonomy/term/99.

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So there you have it. A whole range of crimes committed by just one corporation, destroying lives across the world. It is pretty dire stuff, but we must not and cannot respond with despondence. We must utilise our anger and sadness with ACTION, and I don’t mean going around breaking shit, I mean making sure you CALL COCA COLA OUT. Multinational corporations are dependent on consumer approval, so to let them know that you, as a regular consumer, are disgusted by their actions- this can have a HUGE impact. 

Below are the contact deets you can use to message them and ask them what they’re doing to ensure the safety and security of their workers and those affected by their actions.

Twitter: @CocaCola

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cocacolaGB/?brand_redir=40796308305

Insta: @cocacola

Contact form: https://contactform.coca-cola.co.uk

Phone Number: 020 8237 3000

Catch you for the next exposé and remember BUN COCA COLA 2K17 XXXXX

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Mo Honey, Mo Problems?

Honey is great right. It soothes coughs, it treats wounds, relieves allergies and it almost never expires. But is honey production hurting bees and why can it be considered unethical? We need bees to pollinate plants but as their numbers fall how can we help to ensure their survival.

This blog will be focussing on the question- is eating honey ethical? You can decide for yourself!

Honey is bee vomit. Yes. Bee vomit. Why is bee vomit so precious to bees as well as humans? 

Bees store honey for nutrition during cold weather. “22,700 bees are required to fill a single jar of honey.” So it’s clear why it can be considered as common thievery when we consume honey. After all if you spent all summer making enough food to get by in winter, you’d be pissed if someone else decided they’re entitled to it.

Our relationship with bees, as it is with almost everything else on the planet on a mass scale, is unjust and not tayyib. Just as other animals are factory farmed, so are bees.

  • Factory farms pump bees with antibiotics whether the bees are sick or not. This is to prevent toxins from entering. Antibiotics contribute to immune system deficiencies and make bees resistant to pests and diseases. 
  • Queen Bees are artificially inseminated to breed better. This causes the death of drones who naturally impregnate the Queen.
  • Bees have been manipulated to be bigger than they used to be 100 years ago
  • A study done by food safety news found that ¾ of the 60 jars of honey were counterfeit and contained no bee pollen
  • Swarming (which is when the hive divides after the birth of a new queen) is avoided because it can cause honey production to decline. So beekeepers clip the wings of the queen, kill and replace older queen after just one or two years or confine a queen who is trying to begin a swarm.

But there is something to be said about a give and take relationship with bees. There are less than 200,000 hives in the UK and if this reduces any further sustainable food production would be affected. It is argued that the only reasons we have any bees at all is because of beekeepers.

Organic honey production can create a balanced human bee relationship. For example beekeepers move bees to areas that they can thrive at key times of the year. Without beekeepers there would be no bees because of parasitic mite infestation. Some people actually only take up bee keeping to beneficially impact the environment, and only take any surplus amount of honey. It’s also argued that beekeepers feed bees where they would have otherwise starved.

So what can you do to ensure you are making the most compassionate decision when it comes to honey?

Buy locally where you know exactly what is going down

Want to avoid Honey all together? What are the alternatives:

  • Agave nectar
  • Rice syrup
  • Molasses
  • Barley malt
  • Maple syrup
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit concentrates

Further Reading

https://www.omlet.co.uk/guide/bees/honey_and_wax/a_jar_of_honey/
http://www.yourdailyvegan.com/vegan-guides/is-honey-vegan/ 
https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/animals-used-food-factsheets/honey-factory-farmed-bees/
https://www.lovefood.com/news/57559/whats-in-it-for-the-bees–is-it-ethical-to-eat-honey
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jun/17/ethical-living-eating-honey-lucy-siegle

The Shy Activist- Attain that Taqwa

If you don’t know already, Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for muslims as it’s the month that the Quran was revealed. One of the pillars of Islam is fasting and this is what we do for the whole month of Ramadan, from dawn to sunset. Fasting makes us understand the physical pain of hunger, it encourages us to carry out more good deeds, it improves our will power by abstaining from our physical wants and it is a month that helps us to attain Taqwa.

If you are muslim you will know that familiar feeling in Ramadan when you think about how you are hungry but realise that is how millions of people in poverty feel. Or when you are about to get super angry but don’t want that to jeopardise your fast being accepted. This is because we are very aware of our actions during Ramadan.

Last year I went to the light upon light conference just before Ramadan and I really enjoyed one particular lecture about how the purpose of Ramadan is to attain Taqwa.

“O You who believe! Fasting is prescribed upon you as it was prescribed on those before you so that you may attain Taqwa” Quran – [2:183]

Taqwa means to become closer to Allah and being constantly aware of the presence of Allah. 

“Taqwa is not about performing religious obligations such as prayer and fasting: it is about living a pious life. A person possessing taqwa …chooses to live a moral life.“ 

“It strengthens a Muslim’s belief and enables him to become a better human being and an even better follower of the Islamic faith.”

This lecture particularly interested me because the focus was on our actions as consumers and how we need to be more aware of the presence of Allah in everything we do. 

The speaker was Ustadh Asim Khan who discussed how in the UK we waste 200k tons of food per year and we waste a whole load of clothes too (we’ve had a blog post on this before). The next speaker Zahir Mahmoud lectured about the the Prophet (peace be upon him) and how he hardly had any possessions or money and his home was very modest. This shows the contrast between the lifestyle we’re all so used to and the one we know would be should live as close as possible to.

I think there is a very strong connection between remembering our faith in everything we do and consumerism. Because consumerism and capitalism does not encourage us to think about other people. It encourages us to think about ourselves and what we need. “The love of this world, greed, hatred or enmity towards a fellow human, pride, etc. are all examples of such traits that hurt a believer’s Taqwa.”

One of my favourite quotes from the Prophet (PBUH) is:

“The best of people are those who are most beneficial to people”

We can be beneficial to others in many ways. But we can accidentally be detrimental to people in many ways too. By remembering our faith in everything we do we know we should consider how our choices affect the planet and everything in it. Hopefully this weekly blog helps to consider the bad impact some of the most seemingly harmless things have on our environment and other people.

I hope we all attain the fruits of Ramadan and attain taqwa. Not just by doing the things we are obviously obligated to do like praying, paying zakat, being good to our family and friends etc but being honest in everything that we do. More importantly being more honest with ourselves that we are doing the best we can because that’s all we can do, the best that we can do as individuals. 

O mankind, indeed We have…made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.(49:13)

SO I will leave you with a very Oh So Ethical quote from the Quran.

“…Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…” (Qur’an, 13:11)

BE THE CHANGE. Attain that taqwa people.

FAIR FAVOURITES

So since we break our fast everyday with dates we should definitely get dates that are the most ethical they can be!

MEDJOUL DATES

Palestinian Medjoul Dates

sources and further reading

http://www.idealmuslim.com/how-to-gain-taqwa-in-ramadan/

https://www.muslimaid.org/media-centre/blog/ramadan-and-taqwa/

https://www.al-islam.org/message-thaqalayn/vol11-n4-2011/taqwa-part-1-ayatullah-murtadha-mutahhari/taqwa-part-i#term-taqwa

The Shy Activist- Beware of the Plastics

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The world is in love with plastics for many reasons. Not the Mean Girls plastics, everyone hates them.

But the water bottles, shavers, cutlery, toothbrushes etc. It’s lightweight, flexible, durable and versatile. It’s advanced medicine, transport, electronics – and food packaging. It’s great right!

But did you know that the demand for these disposable items mean that plastic is produced at 350m tonnes per years and it’s continuously increasing.

The trouble with this is that plastic never breaks down and every piece of plastic ever made is still living somewhere on our planet. Some of these plastics can be recycled and continue living on earth as a new product. Margarine and ice cream tubs, yogurt pots, fruit punnets and ready meal trays, drink, shampoo and detergent bottles could be reincarnated if you like.

However, there are many different types of plastic and the sorting process is very labor intensive.

“Only 14 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled, with the remainder, worth £60-90 billion worldwide lost as waste.”

There are plastics that can’t be recycled including plastic wrap, cling film, bubble wrap (I know it hurts, I’m sorry), plastic bags, crisp packets, sweet wrappers, polystyrene, soft plastic/metallic packaging, plastic bottle caps TO NAME BUT A FEW.

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Simon Ellin the Chief of the Recycling Association singled out Pringles, Lucozade, supermarket black plastic meat trays and cleaning spray bottles to be themes difficult/impossible to recycle.

So one major problem is that we keep producing tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of plastic and were just leaving it around the world. But there are other negative impacts.

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Look at this little guy. He shouldn’t be eating plastic. He should be eating plants and insects! But the poor thing and 100,000 other marine creatures like him are eating plastic and 10% of marine life have died from being entangled in plastic bags that we are manufacturing and not taking responsibility for. It’s said that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the sea that fish!

It also pollutes the air, land and water as well as exposing worker to toxic chemicals when it’s being manufactured and incinerated. “Serious accidents have included explosions, chemical fires, chemical spills, and clouds of toxic vapor. These kinds of occurrences have caused deaths, injuries, evacuations and major property damage.”

Plastics used in cooking and food storage is also affecting our health. Chemicals that are typically hormone-mimicking and endocrine disrupters are evidenced to be coming from plastics.

There is a link between these chemicals and health problems “chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy. Exposure to BPA at a young age can cause genetic damage, and BPA has been linked to recurrent miscarriage in women. The health risks of plastic are significantly amplified in children, whose immune and organ systems are developing and are more vulnerable.  The evidence of health risks from certain plastics is increasingly appearing in established, peer-reviewed scientific journals.”

We can tackle plastic pollution and we should as soon as possible. In fact there is a prize of £1.5million prize for environmentally friendly packaging design, backed by the conservation charity the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize.

Chris Grantham from the London branch of the global design consultancy Ideo said, designers would need to produce items that could be used again and again as pressure on materials increases from a growing population.
Mr Grantham’s ideas about how to tackle the issue include; if products are bought online products do not need branding and complex designs; supermarkets can fit a mini projector to project branding onto blank containers.

Here’s a short list of ways to reduce plastic pollution with your own bare hands from the Natural Resources Defences Council:

1. Wean yourself off disposable plastics.
Ninety percent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids. Take note of how often you rely on these products and replace them with reusable versions. It only takes a few times of bringing your own bags to the store, silverware to the office, or travel mug to Starbucks before it becomes habit.

2. Stop buying water.
Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash. Carry a reusable bottle in your bag, and you’ll never be caught having to resort to a Poland Spring or Evian again. If you’re nervous about the quality of your local tap water, look for a model with a built-in filter.

3. Boycott microbeads.
Those little plastic scrubbers found in so many beauty products—facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes—might look harmless, but their tiny size allows them to slip through water-treatment plants. Unfortunately, they also look just like food to some marine animals. Opt for products with natural exfoliants, like oatmeal or salt, instead.

4. Cook more.
Not only is it healthier, but making your own meals doesn’t involve takeout containers or doggy bags. For those times when you do order in or eat out, tell the establishment you don’t need any plastic cutlery or, for some serious extra credit, bring your own food-storage containers to restaurants for leftovers.

5. Purchase items secondhand.
New toys and electronic gadgets, especially, come with all kinds of plastic packaging—from those frustrating hard-to-crack shells to twisty ties. Search the shelves of thrift stores, neighborhood garage sales, or online postings for items that are just as good when previously used. You’ll save yourself a few bucks, too.

6. Recycle (duh).
It seems obvious, but we’re not doing a great job of it. For example, less than 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. Confused about what can and can’t go in the bin? Check out the number on the bottom of the container. Most beverage and liquid cleaner bottles will be #1 (PET), which is commonly accepted by most curbside recycling companies. Containers marked #2 (HDPE; typically slightly heavier-duty bottles for milk, juice, and laundry detergent) and #5 (PP; plastic cutlery, yogurt and margarine tubs, ketchup bottles) are also recyclable in some areas. For the specifics on your area, check out Earth911.org’s recycling directory.

7. Support a bag tax or ban.
Urge your elected officials to follow the lead of those in San Francisco, Chicago, and close to 150 other cities and counties by introducing or supporting legislation that would make plastic-bag use less desirable.

8. Buy in bulk.
Single-serving yogurts, travel-size toiletries, tiny packages of nuts—consider the product-to-packaging ratio of items you tend to buy often and select the bigger container instead of buying several smaller ones over time.

9. Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaner.
Invest in a zippered fabric bag and request that your cleaned items be returned in it instead of sheathed in plastic. (And while you’re at it, make sure you’re frequenting a dry cleaner that skips the perc, a toxic chemical found in some cleaning solvents.)

10. Put pressure on manufacturers.
Though we can make a difference through our own habits, corporations obviously have a much bigger footprint. If you believe a company could be smarter about its packaging, make your voice heard. Write a letter, send a tweet, or hit them where it really hurts: Give your money to a more sustainable competitor.

So you know what to do. Go do it. Please.

FAIR FAVOURITES

Mean It fashion- it was hard to stop choosing things I like from here. What a great selection!

“Our mission is to source ethical fashion around the world and offer well-designed, desirable and luxurious pieces in one marketplace. Clothing and accessories designed and produced in a sustainable way, using environment-friendly materials. Vegan pieces. Fair trade and upcycled items. All made by teams that have control over the production process, making sure there is no wrongdoing in any sense. Brands we are very proud to sell.”

Maya Day Dreamer Maxi Dress

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Kelly Cotton Chambray Shirt Dress

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Queenie Dress

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Verushka Denin Skirt

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https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/16/toxic-timebomb-why-we-must-fight-back-against-the-worlds-plague-of-plastic

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-39953209

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4519380/Prince-Charles-Dame-Ellen-MacArthur-tackle-plastics.html

https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/the_plastic_problem#.WSAkiXeZPqQ

http://www.plasticsindustry.com/plastics-environment.asp

http://www.therecyclingassociation.com/latest-news/ceo-simon-ellin-picks-out-worst-packaging-offenders-for-recyclability-for-the-bbc

https://www.nrdc.org

The Shy Activist- “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.”

I’ve already highlighted some of the issues that are connected with the chocolate industry in previous blog posts including child labour, milk production and palm oil. 

I suppose this is a post to highlight the issues we face with this product which is a staple and an addiction for many of us.

It isn’t a surprise considering the state of the industry that child labour and unfair treatment of workers is prevalent in cocoa farming. Cocoa is mainly grown in Ivory Coast, Ghana and Latin America where farmers are paid $2 per day. You don’t need a huge imagination to think what workers get paid. In fact research suggests children are imprisoned on farms after thy look for work or their relatives sell them to farm owners.

These farms supply the biggest chocolate companies including Mars, Hershey and Nestle. These three companies are in the top 10 leading confectioners in the world. I just will never understand capitalism and the concept of being mega rich but not paying your workers enough to live, if anything. If we buy a bar of chocolate which is now around 60p we’ve already used almost half of a farmers daily wage.

The confectioners hide behind the layers of industry, the government, chocolate dealers and farmers, in their bid to stay ignorant. Food Empower Project have written a lot about the issues in the chocolate industry and you can read it here. They have highlighted that although some confectioners certify that they are fair trade and do not allow child labour undercover investigation has found this to be greenwashing. Companies are slow to make changes to ensure that workers are treated with dignity.

If you want to make sure that your money is going to people who deserve it here’s a list that the Food Empowerment Project put together based on companies they recommend to least recommend. The list is extensive and it includes the following that I can recommend in taste. I am REALLY fussy about chocolate because I sadly am a chocoholic.

  • Vego- My favourite
  • Coop brand
  • Divine
  • Montezuma
  • Plamil 

The good shopping guide also made a list based on environmental impact, animal welfare, political donations and many other factors. Read it here. The only company to get a score of 100 is the seed and bean company which I have yet to try, but I will make sure to!

FAIR FAVOURITES- FOUNDLING

“For something to be truly beautiful, it has to be beautiful inside & out..so we set about finding a team of ethical manufacturing partners around the globe. With children & families of our own…ethical production was the only way to go!  Our clothing range is made by a sedex accredited, government regulated business in India – an assurance that people are not being taken advantage of & that they are entitled to the working conditions which most of us just take for granted.”

la cirque trapeze tunic bleu

darjeeling kimono

byzantine nightingale earrings gold

trinidad button down maxi dress

Sources and further reading

https://www.statista.com/statistics/252097/net-sales-of-the-leading-10-confectionery-companies-worldwide/

http://www.foodispower.org/slavery-chocolate/

http://grist.org/food/a-guide-to-ethical-chocolate/

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/02/the-truth-behind-the-chocolate-industry-will-leave.html

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/how-ethical-is-your-chocolate/