Cotton is ubiquitous in modern life but the long trail between the fields in which the crop grows and the store at which a finished item is purchased is seldom considered. One group, FibrEthik, is working to change that.
FibrEthik, a non-for profit co-operative based in Montreal, Canada, imports and promotes Fair Trade and organic products specifically cotton, yarn, fabrics, and garments. They are directly imported from three scale producers and groups based in India, which are manufactured by socially-oriented organizations.
Beyond manufacturing clothes and housewares, FibrEthik's mission is to educate and raise awareness, not only about the cotton industry but also on sustainable consumption, fair trade, and international solidarity. It is also their goal to promote sustainable consumption and solidarity with small scale producers in poor countries.
They aim to not only to educate about their products but also how the entire process works—from the initial step when cotton is picked to when it is shipped and produced into garments.
This begins with growing cotton. FibrEthik only uses organic cotton, which means that producers do not have to pay for harmful chemicals. This saves them 50% of their production costs. It also makes the growing and processing safer for workers and the environment.
Furthermore, the company lobbies for the eco-friendly transformation of cotton at every production step including water purification, traceability, avoiding genetically modified crops, and eliminating any chemicals including heavy metals formaldehydes, and PVCs.
As a Fair Trade organization, FibrEthik ensures that the organic cotton is bought directly from co-op producers. This allows the producers to earn 50% more than the conventional commercial production. Furthermore, Fair Trade premiums generate investments in community development projects like building schools and drip irrigation systems. The irrigation systems alone have proved to be incredibly helpful for the producers foundation, saving up to 70% on water.
In the manufacturing plants as well, efforts have been made to improve working conditions and give back to employees. Factories are monitored by the International Labor Organization, the workers receive benefits, and basic working conditions have been improved.
These efforts filter down to the consumer, too. The products are not just ethical, free of the environmental footprint typically embodied by garments, but free of chemicals as well.
Photographs by Mona Miri; model: Allison Rogers; hair stylist: Brenda Nadolny; make-up stylist: Liz Evenson