Here we are in the New Year (half way through January already!). So how are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? Many people concentrate on what they should be giving up for the New Year – alcohol, chocolate or biscuits. A more positive approach might be to consider what changes we can take on board, such as acting more responsibly and inspiring others to do so too. This may sound a bit sanctimonious and preachy but if you are reading this blog then you are probably on the same wavelength. After all it has been written for ORB – The Organisation for Responsible Businesses!
So what is Responsibility?
Responsibility is a big word – not just because it has a lot of letters, but also because it covers a number of areas. Checking out dictionary definitions brings up words such as ‘obligation’ and ‘duty’ which sound onerous, but also ‘safekeeping’ and ‘guardianship’. Acting responsibly is something that we are told to do all our lives – but what are we responsible for? Well there are our responsibilities to our families, workmates/bosses and to uphold the laws we are bound by, but what about bigger responsibilities? I believe that we are responsible for the world we live in – for making every person’s life be as good as it can be and for passing on the world in at least as good, if not better, state than when we started living in it. We all touch a lot of lives and influence the state of our planet – from what we eat, how we travel and the clothes we wear. We are responsible for the choices we make.
Where did ‘Where Does It Come From?’ Come From?
It was this, the touching of many lives, which led to the creation of Where Does It Come From? (http://www.wheredoesitcomefrom.co.uk) – an ethical clothing business that gives every garment a code so that the customer can find out about exactly how their garment was made and who was involved in making it (see our kid’s jeans, left). I won’t bang on about the negative issues of fast fashion and the clothing industry – we all know about those, but having a responsibility towards those people who touched our clothes before we did was a key consideration. The processes and materials and their impact on our world was also high on the list. But there was also a responsibility to the customers and to the children – They SHOULD be told what goes on to make their clothes. It is much easier to bow out of a responsibility if you don’t know you have it. Most people want to do the right thing and don’t want people to suffer to make their clothes (remember the reaction to the Rana Plaza factory disaster in 2013?) but it is often easier to remain in the dark.
How are we being Responsible?
It took a fair while to set up Where Does It Come From? after the initial concept landed. I won’t go on about it here but if you are interested please see past blogs at www.wheredoesitcomefrom.co.uk/blog. We have found a great partner in http://moralfibre-fabrics.com/ and, through them, we have access to skilled co-operative workers. Most of the workers live rurally in Gujarat, India and work at home or in their villages to produce the fabrics we use. Their skills are traditional – passed down from generation to generation – and by buying from them we help to ensure that they can continue to live and work in the way they choose.
Fairtrade is a key way to ensure worker’s livelihoods and to re-assure customers that we take our responsibilities to heart. We are Fairtrade accredited as a business and currently in the process of working through our whole supply chain to ensure we can use the Fairtrade mark on all our products as soon as possible.
All our garments are made from fabrics that have been made by hand and dyed by hand using eco-dyes (see hand dyeing photo). These processes mean that there is a very low-carbon impact, low water wastage and less harmful chemicals put out into the environment. We plan to move to certified organic cotton fabric creation as soon as we can. All our packaging and stationary is recycled.
To fulfil our responsibilities to our customers we have a code on the label of each garment which links the customer with pages of information about where the cotton was grown, how it was turned into fabric, and interviews with some of the people involved. Here you can link to people’s lives – such as finding out that Daksha (left) who is 21, passes most of her wages on to her family but keeps some pocket money which she uses to buy make up or top up her mobile phone! By building such linkages we hope that people, especially children, will engage with those out of ‘sight’ and not learn to put them ‘out of mind’. Of course we have other responsibilities to our customer too – to provide them with a quality product that offers good value for money (see photo of our leaf print scarf). We take those responsibilities just as seriously and so far (fingers crossed!) we seem to have happy customers!
So back to New Year’s resolutions – can we add responsibility to the list? The growth of ethical shopping and Fairtrade has been phenomenal, and with sites such as http://www.ethicalsuperstore.com where you can buy pretty much anything, and directories such as http://www.mygreendirectory.co.uk and obviously https://www.theresponsiblebusinessdirectory.co.uk (the directory that lists members of the Organisation for Responsible Businesses) listing the more ethical companies, it is much easier to make the choice to shop more responsibly. To make other life choices more responsible, such as responsible travel and responsible food sourcing, I will leave for someone else to tackle
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