The choices in our closets are connected to real people. It's a realization dawning on consumers in light of the tragedies in Bangladesh and other poor countries, where more than 1000 people have recently lost their lives in garment factories.
According to Scott Leonard, co-founder and CEO of INDIGENOUS Fair Trade + Organic, his clothing company has spent almost 20 years establishing supply and manufacturing models that ensure worker safety and benefit everyone along the way.
"No one should have to suffer and die to make clothing," Leonard declared. "Just the opposite: their families should prosper. That's how it is with our supply chain, and that's how it could be with other supply chains. And let's not make this harder than it can be, and let's not wait, because lives are at stake."
INDIGENOUS views people who grow the fibers, process the materials, and knit or sew garments as "artisans." They're paid living wages, even in some of the poorest regions of the world. Their workshops are true partners with INDIGENOUS, and in addition to regular visits from the INDIGENOUS team, artisans are surveyed privately every six months using a progressive telephone voice-based survey method about their well-being.
But how can consumers know that the people who make the clothes they wear are being treated fairly and work in safe environments? INDIGENOUS worked with Worldways Social Marketing to develop the Fair Trace Tool(tm). Clothing tags feature a QR code that can be scanned with a mobile device, which take the consumer to see videos and information about the artisans who made the garment, along with details about labor data and impacts to the community.
According to INDIGENOUS co-founder and president Matt Reynolds, consumers want that level of transparency, and his company is offering to license the Fair Trace Tool(tm) technology to other brands.
"And we hope by doing that, it makes that 'fashionista' be also a 'passionista' - and start asking those questions about everything that she does on a daily basis, and how her purchasing decisions really do make a difference in people's lives," Reynolds said.
INDIGENOUS' Scott Leonard declared it's time to set aside competitiveness and work collaboratively to ensure there are no more deaths or injuries in the garment industry. With that in mind, INDIGENOUS is spilling the beans on their methods, as well as offering the Fair Trace Tool(tm) by license.
"We independently survey workers every six months; require fair labor practices; and personally tour workshops, so that we can pay prices so that people are safe and that the benefits to the people that make the garments are easily achieved," he stated.
The latest survey of INDIGENOUS artisans found 85 percent indicated they were better off, and 75 percent said they were no longer at risk of poverty. While those numbers are high, the company's goal is to raise them to 100 percent.