We often don’t know where things we use every day come from: our clothes, shoes, toys, or food. We don’t think where and how they were made and what kinds of problems are connected with their production. During the workshop the participants will get to know basic facts concerning the topic, in order to become more sensitive and motivated to look for responsible solutions and implement them.
Author and translation: Anna Książek
Proofreading: Andrea Pucci
Empowering participants to make responsible consumers’ choices
During the workshop the participants will:
Get to know basic facts about items we use daily (where they come from, how they are produced, what issues are connected with them)
Think what they, as consumers, can do to change the situation
1. Where from are the items we use every day
Do participants know the story of their clothes and shoes? Where things like tea, coffee, cacao, bananas come from? To answer those questions you can check labels or etiquette.
2. Watching movie
Watch a 20-minutes movie which is a good introduction to the topic of responsible consumption: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waXLd93bYvk. (Story of stuff)
3. Task for teams
Each small team receives one of the four attachments and works on a particular issue:
attachment 1 related to clothes
attachment 2 related to food
attachment 3 related to toys
attachment 4 related to shoes
Each attachment contains:
an article about a particular global problem
the story of a changemaker who changes the situation described in the article
Groups can also search for more information in the Internet. Based on that, they prepare a presentation, in which they should show problems connected with the particular issue as well as possible solutions and actions which we, as consumers, can take (this is very important!). Beside the material mentioned above, it’s worth to give the groups things, which will inspire them to fulfill the task, for example packages from food, labels from clothes, photos of different products, etc.
Each group has 5 minutes to present the topic plus 5 minutes for discussion and questions. Then think together what we can do? Write down all ideas on a flipchart.
5. Summary of workshop
What caught your attention during the workshop? What will you do differently starting from today?
Additional tasks for group:
Organize a meeting (or workshop for friends from school) about responsible electronics or responsible cosmetics, to get to know more about their production.
Prepare happening or other actions which will allow you to share some of the information you gained during this meeting.
Put at least one idea you discussed during the meeting into practice.
WHY DO WE NEED A FASHION REVOLUTION?
On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history.
That’s when Fashion Revolution was born.
There were five garment factories in Rana Plaza all manufacturing clothing for big global brands. The victims were mostly young women.
We believe that 1,138 is too many people to lose from the planet in one building, on one terrible day to not stand up and demand change.
Since then, people from all over the world have come together to use the power of fashion to change the world.
Fashion Revolution is now a global movement of people like you.
Have you ever wondered who made your clothes? How much they’re paid, and what their lives are like?
Our clothes have gone on a long journey before they hit store shelves, passing through the hands of cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, sewers and others. Approximately 75 million people work to make our clothes. 80% of them are women between the ages of 18 and 35.
However, the majority of the people who makes clothes for the global market live in poverty, unable to afford life’s basic necessities. Many are subject to exploitation; verbal and physical abuse, working in unsafe and dirty conditions, with very little pay.
Today, both people and the environment suffer as a result of the way fashion is made, sourced and consumed.
This needs to change.
At the moment, most of the world lives in a capitalist economy. This means companies must increase sales growth and make profits in order to succeed — but crucially, not at the expense of peoples’ working conditions, health, livelihoods, dignity and creativity and not at the expense of our natural environment.
Whether you are someone who buys and wears fashion (that’s pretty much everyone) or you work in the industry along the supply chain somewhere or if you’re a policymaker who can have an impact on legal requirements, you are accountable for the impact fashion has on people’s lives and on nature.
Groups receive also the text “Along the silk road”, related to ecological and socially responsible way of producing silk on a farm in Laos.
The truth is, behind each food product is an intricate web of factories and workers, often from more than one place. Corporations who source products from other countries are able to save money and keep prices low, but it comes at a human cost. Too often employees in these situations are denied basic rights like fair pay and ethical work hours.
The problem isn’t just with other countries. Meat is one of the largest industries, and factory farms are some of the worst offenders in terms of environmental degradation and animal rights. When the process is broken down —from growing feed for the cows to processing the beef, just one hamburger can take as much as 1000 gallons of water to produce.
As the demand for socially responsible food grows, companies are learning that customers care about who they give their money to. More people than ever before want to know what goes into the food they eat. If you want to start, now’s the time. The amount of information available to ethical consumers is at its peak, so take advantage of it!
How do you know where to invest your money? The golden rule of ethical consumerism is to buy local. Supporting local farms gives back to your community and takes away the stress of calculating food miles. If you love fresh fruits and veggies, farmers markets and locally sourced restaurants are the way to go. Most importantly, stocking up on produce allows less space in your pantry for processed foods, which are more likely to be unethical and are bad for you anyway.
Whether you dive head-in or just want to give ethical consumerism a try, the point is this: as a consumer you have the power to change the standard for how food is sourced. Companies work hard for your money and will respond to shifts in consumer trends, no matter how large of a brand they are.
Being responsible doesn’t mean you have to be a killjoy, so don’t be afraid to have fun. Take the opportunity to get involved in your community, explore unfamiliar foods, and be a little kinder to the Earth.
Groups receive also the text “Back to the roots” or “Rice weddings”, related to ecological farming of rice in Thailand.
The Other Side of Fairy Tales: An investigation of labor conditions at five Chinese toy factories
The joyful fairy tales associated with many toys are belied by the tragic stories woven into toy production. In workshops that are hazardous to their health, millions of workers toil under cruel management, 11 hours a day, six days per week. Over the course of a year, a toy worker may only be able to see her parents and children one time. Making the minimum wage, workers must bear such conditions just to get by.
Many workers at one toy factory did four-hour shifts without taking a break for water or the restroom. When asked why, the workers explained that it wasn’t possible to take water breaks with so much work to do. A worker named Ms. Li at another toy plant is only five years from retirement. She found out that management had a policy to push out workers close to retirement in order to avoid pension payments. For Ms. Li, this policy means that she may be left without the full amount of her earned retirement funds. She said knowing this keeps her awake at night.
Toy manufacturing has been in China for more than 20 years. A 2015 report from HKTDC Research states that 75% of toys globally are produced in China.
The Other Side of the Fairy Tales
The story of toy factories reflects a yawning gap between the fairy tale and the reality of toys. Toy brands play toy manufacturers off one another to reduce production prices and maximize profit margins. The competition leads to declining conditions for workers in toy factories. This dynamic ultimately reveals the emptiness behind toy brands' much-promoted commitments to ethical procurement and labor conditions.
Brands demand the best quality, the fastest production time, and the lowest costs, with no regard for how their demands affect the lives of workers.
While workers struggle year after year to survive, the corporations above them exploit workers’ labor to enlarge the fortunes of shareholders and executives. In 2014, Disney’s revenue and profit reached $48.81 billion and $7.5 billion, respectively. That same year Disney CEO Robert Iger’s total compensation of $43.7 million made him the 12th highest paid CEO in America, according to The New York Times. This means that a Chinese worker making Disney’s toys would need to work 11 hours a day, six days a week for 7,011 years to earn the annual compensation of Disney’s CEO. For Mattel and Hasbro, the comparable figures are 1,534 and 2,466 years, respectively.
Fundamental Reform in Toy Factories
For nearly two decades human rights abuses have continued in Chinese toy factories supplying to the world’s largest toy brands. Comparisons of this year’s investigative findings with past years’ findings demonstrate that few improvements are occurring, and some conditions even are worsening. The largest benefactors of such ongoing abuse are the profitable toy, brand, and retail companies at the top of global value chains. These companies have the power to influence and control labor conditions in toy factories, and they must bring fundamental reforms to the conditions of workers making their beloved toys. Such reforms include but are not limited to:
Reduce the use of temporary workers to less than 10% of total workforce;
Workers’ base wages should be increased significantly above the local minimum wage so that workers are not dependent on long overtime hours;
Production schedules should be adjusted so as to ensure that overtime work is strictly voluntary;
Resignation should not require “application” and resigning workers should receive due wages upon exit from the factory;
All activities that are a mandatory requirement or duty of a job should be compensated (including group meetings, training, and required on-boarding procedures);
Provide workers with more spacious and hygienic housing;
Ensure that workers receive pre-job that is 1) in accordance with legal requirements and 2) sufficient to educate them on all chemicals or procedures which could pose a risk to their short- and long-term health;
Other legal violations mentioned in this report should be remedied;
Let workers elect enterprise-level union representatives that can actually represent worker interests.
Groups receive also the texts “Kymviet” and “Dignity Kitchen” showing companies which care about their workers, including people with disabilities.
Over the last twenty years, sweatshops have become synonymous with the big-name shoe brands; Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Puma. By the end of the nineties, these companies had been accused of a whole range of corporate crimes, from involvement in child labour to lacing workers’ drinks with amphetamines to keep them going through the night. However, following intensive campaigning things are changing, and ‘corporate social responsibility’ is now the phrase on everyone’s lips.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) may be the most damaging plastic to human health and the environment. According to Greenpeace, it is being phased out by Adidas, Asics, Nike and Puma. New Balance has eliminated some PVC but set no start-date for phaseout; Fila, Reebok and Saucony made no commitments. In particular, concerns have been raised over the release of toxic chemicals such as dioxins from PVC products.
It was once calculated that a Thai worker would have to work for 26.5 million days or 72,000 years to receive what Tiger Woods gets during a five-year contract with Nike. Or, in other words, that Nike spends the equivalent of 14,000 workers’ daily wages to pay Tiger Woods for one day. Campaigners hope to ensure that the workers receive fair labour practices and good working conditions. They are trying to persuade companies to agree to:
No use of forced labour or child labour
Freedom of association and collective bargaining
Payment of a living wage
A 48-hour week maximum
Safe working conditions
No race or gender discrimination
On the whole, the campaigns have been successful. Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Puma have all been forced to re-evaluate working conditions in their factories over the last decade. The above stipulations are included in all the codes of conduct for the big brands, and Reebok, Adidas and Nike have agreed to participate in Fair Labor’s external monitoring programme.
The problems arise in enforcing the code. Rather than owning factories outright, companies subcontract from factories which have their own management. It is up to the company to ensure that the factories comply with their code of conduct.
The problems do not end with the company’s conscience: in China, authentic trade union activity is illegal, regardless of what the ethical code of conduct stipulates. Clearly, there is a lot left to be done.
Groups receive also the texts about “Risqué Designs"and “Tribu”showing companies which care about their workers and produce shoes using safe materials, traditional artwork or upcycling (making from waste products of high quality).
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