Image via: People Tree
"The future is only ethical business, otherwise we don't have a future." These were the forthright words of People Tree founder Safia Minney last week at the launch of the People Tree foundation. At a press gathering organised to coincide with London Fashion Week and Fairtrade Fortnight, Minney, together with the foundation's ambassador Jo Wood and John Hilary of War on Want, spoke passionately about how much work there is to be done to help developing communities enter the Fairtrade fashion market. People Tree's Experience
People Tree over the years has pioneered the use of organic cotton and artisanal skills in the production of their clothing and has established relationships with Fairtrade groups in 15 countries around the world. With this experience in the field Safia Minney and her team are well placed to see the need for training, capacity building and education, hence the creation of the People Tree Foundation which has four main aims:
1 - To alleviate poverty and create decent livelihoods in developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America through the promotion of Fair Trade.
2 - To protect the environment through the promotion of evnironmental projects related to the communities People Tree works in and the garment trade in general.
3 - To promote community development by supporting community projects where People Tree works (including the establishments and running of schools).
4 - To promote and develop awareness of Fair Trade and environmental issues in Britain and the developed world.
Jo Wood in Bangladesh
Jo Wood, founder of Jo Wood Organics, was invited to be the foundation's ambassador and recently travelled with Safia to Bangladesh to get a first hand experience of how Fairtrade benefits people's lives. She says she was shocked by the contrast of women's lives in the Fairtrade cooperative Swallows in rural Bangladesh where women can work in a healthy environment, while their children go to school nearby, and the lives of women in the city slums who live in tiny shelters separated from their children who live with their grandparents.
1.4 Billion in Extreme Poverty
As a follow up to Jo Wood's emotional reaction to her experience in Bangladesh, Safia Minney hit us with some hard facts. According to the International Labour Organisation 200 million people are going to be forced into extreme poverty by the economic downturn, this is on top of the 1.4 billion who are already living in such conditions. Minney explains that the majority of these people will never be able to work their way out of poverty as their earnings are so far below the minimum wage.
What's a real living wage?
According to People Tree even the minimum wage set by governments in developing countries is 3 or 4 times below the real cost of living. Safia goes into tell us that just by adding on an extra 10p to the price of a high street retailer's t-shirt would increase workers income by 20%. Faced with these facts it is clear how important the Fairtrade movement is. Minney estimates that half a million artisans throughout the developing world could benefit from a Fairtrade legislation and the UK government's new Sustainable Clothing Action Plan just doesn't go far enough.
Without mincing her words Minney went on to say, "The Government's 'Action Plan' is too little too late, we don't want just another Fairtrade initiative that hold's nobody accountable, we need something that really builds on our expertise."
Fundraising for People Tree Foundation
While the People Tree Foundation is not the government legislation that is so badly needed in the fashion industry it is a promising body which has great ambitions to work at every level of Fairtrade fashion to facilitate its growth concentrating as much on environmental justice as social justice. Currently the foundation is seeking funding to set up their first projects.
People Tree Foundation
Jo Wood Organics
War on Want
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