What is fair trade? What is ethical shopping? What do these practices have to do with justice issues?
According to the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), “Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.”
Some companies may be completely transparent in their supply chain and operate with fair trade standards, however they aren’t certified by one of the organizations like WFTO, just as your local farmer at the farmer’s market may not be certified organic, but grows his produce with organic practices. Size of the company and cost of certification are factors in why not all ethical companies are certified fair trade. Shopping secondhand is also considered ethical because it does not create new demand for a product and it keeps unused items out of landfills.
Luke 4 says that after Jesus’ temptation in the desert he went home to Nazareth in Galilee and, while in the synagogue, he picked up a scroll and read Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Him: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Isaiah 61:1-2, NIV)
The International Justice Mission (IJM) estimates there are currently 40 million slaves in the world today, which is more than at any other point in human history. Slavery is illegal in every country. The Global Slavery Index estimated in 2018 that $127.7 billion worth of garments at risk of using slaves are imported annually by G20 countries. Modern slavery does not look like it did in the early part of America’s history, where slaves were used on plantations and performed domestic duties in the homes of their masters. According to the International Labor Organization, modern slavery can be described as, “…situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse of leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power.” This can manifest itself in situations such as (but not limited to) forced labor, debt bondage, and forced marriage.
These facts are our call to action. It is time to stop and think about what we buy, how we buy, and how often we buy.
If some of Jesus’ first words after his baptism and time in the desert were to announce in the synagogue that He came to proclaim freedom for the captives, AND slavery exists today, what does that mean to those of us who have given our lives to Him and whose greatest desire is to live a life like His?
Instead of 5 $5 t-shirts from a mass retailer where slaves were likely involved in the manufacturing process, in order to have one of every color, what if we chose to spend $32 on one t-shirt, made by women who have been rescued from sex trafficking? Elegantees is a clothing retailer whose seamstresses come from a local safe house in Nepal. These seamstresses are not only paid more than two times the local minimum wage, but they work regular hours in a safe environment.
The process of changing your shopping habits will look different for everyone and every budget. My ethical fashion inspiration is Molly Stillman from the blog Still Being Molly and she recently talked about her own switch has taken about 8 years. I haven’t made the full switch to only fair and ethical items, but I am improving every day and that’s a win. I am also realistic, especially when it comes to my kids. Most of my kids’ clothing comes from retailers like The Children’s Place or Target, if it isn’t secondhand, because the reality is there aren’t a lot of options AND, when there are options, the prices are too high for my budget, especially considering how fast kids grow and wear out clothing.
Since we are a single income family and it isn’t practical to ONLY buy new items from fair & ethical companies, I find myself falling more in line with the old adage, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” I sew patches on ripped jeans vs. buying new ones. I question needs vs. wants (and answer myself honestly) before making a purchase. When my kids outgrow their current clothes I check the thrift store before buying new.
None of this is written for shame or condemnation, but the heart is education. Give yourself grace, remember it’s a marathon, and take baby steps. We have the power to change the world and I pray we use it.
****Originally published on AmplifyPeace.com