So… you want to advocate for vulnerable workers in fashion supply chains, but you’re not sure how to start.
There’s no two-ways about it – from the outside, advocacy seems like a difficult thing to do. It can be intimidating to speak out about tough issues.
You might think that your one voice can’t make a difference. But in reality, as a consumer of clothing, your voice is essential for fashion companies to hear – otherwise, how will they know how to act?
When you decide to call for change you join an ever-growing community of people and organisations standing together, advocating for brands to do better by their workers.
Research by Monash University found that spending on ethically produced clothing has risen in Australia. More than 90% of Australian consumers want clothing companies to implement more sustainable practices and 70% are willing to pay more for clothing made in a way that didn’t infringe on the human rights of workers. (To see how the ethical fashion movement has grown, check out our article looking back through a Decade in Ethical Fashion.)
Immense progress has been made by some companies in response to changing consumer attitudes, but many issues remain. Less than 5% of companies surveyed for the 2019 Ethical Fashion Report pay their workers a living wage and less than 40% are transparent about where they source their products.
On top of this, the coronavirus pandemic has slowed progress towards improving labour rights in the fashion industry as companies shut their doors, cancel orders, and lay off staff. Millions of vulnerable garment workers are slipping into poverty.
More than ever before, we need you to lend your voice to this issue… and call on the brands you love to support their most vulnerable workers through the COVID Fashion Commitments.
Taking your first step into advocacy work can be much easier than it seems!
Your guide to advocating for vulnerable garment workers – start your advocacy journey today!
One of the scariest parts of putting yourself out there and advocating for an issue is feeling as though you’re out of your depth when speak about it. The best way to fix this is to read and learn as much as you can about the issue you want to advocate for.
Learning about an issue is a great way to pinpoint where and how you’ll be an effective advocate. Take the Coronavirus crisis: you want brands to support their most vulnerable workers… but in what way? You might want to gain an understanding of the COVID Fashion Commitments and use them as the basis for starting a conversation with a friend or brand. Or you might prefer to pick one issue discussed in The Commitments and advocate for it specifically.
Share something with your community
The first step to advocating is telling someone else about the issue you’re advocating for and why it matters. You might tag a family member, friend, or colleague in a social media post about the experience of garment workers or bring it up on your next zoom meeting. When you go shopping with a friend, chat about your clothes purchasing habits and how you involve brand ethics into the decisions you make.
Contact a brand
Contacting your favourite brand is the best way to let them know their customers care. There are various ways you can advocate to a brand, and each have their different advantages.
- Share the COVID Fashion Commitments to a company’s social media page
The benefit of this form of advocacy is that it is public and visible to all – this means that as well as advocating to the brand, you are raising awareness of the issue for hundreds or (in some cases) thousands of other people and giving them the opportunity to join in.
- Email/write a letter to the brand
Writing to a brand has the advantage of allowing you to go into some detail about the issues you are asking them to address… and you have a better chance of receiving a response, too. This means you can often engage in a more meaningful dialogue.
If you’re going to speak to a specific brand, you need to know what they’re doing to support workers in their supply chain.
A brand that has made a commitment still has work to do; make sure they know their customers appreciate their efforts and encourage them to keep up the good work! If your favourite brand hasn’t taken any action, let them know how important this issue is to consumers and encourage them to get involved.
Keen to go big and bold? There are many ways you can get your whole community involved in advocating for garment workers (while you keep your social distance!)
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper
- Coordinate a group advocacy phone or email event – decide on a key message you want to send and who you want to send it to (this could be one company or multiple companies). Then on a set day and time, send out your advocacy communications together!
- Already belong to a group or community, such as a church, book club, sporting club, etc.? Organise a presentation for them about this issue and why it is important to you.
- Fundraise! Many organisations are fundraising for coronavirus relief efforts. You could make a donation or hold a fundraiser for a particular organisation. Baptist World Aid is currently raising funds to support several coronavirus response projects, you can donate here.
Celebrate small wins… and don’t be discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t succeed. Advocacy – big change – doesn’t come overnight. Every new attempt to create change is a step in the right direction!
Start your advocacy journey in the way that feels right to you.
Some will jump in the deep end with a larger advocacy project, but most will start with a small action and build up from there. Both approaches make a valuable contribution to improving conditions for garment workers!
However you choose to advocate, we’d love to hear about it! Get in touch at [email protected] to tell us about your advocacy journey. You never know, your experience could help someone else start theirs.