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   Copyright: Suzanne Lee for the Max Havelaar Foundation

The change

A brand-new business, a fresh beginning. For us… change is in the air! However, we are far from content with change for just ‘us’. No, this business is about more, we are targeting a much bigger change. Dreaming big… we want nationwide change!

Tummah Ethical Trade was born out of the futile nature of our personal searching for Fairtrade certified clothing in New Zealand. There is always the overseas option, you might be thinking. That is true, and it’s the route we ended up taking. But it is inconvenient and if you are not careful, it can end up being very expensive.

Yes, fair trade is happening in New Zealand; in recent years’ coffee and chocolate has boomed, so much so that fair trade varieties are now commonplace on the shelves of all major supermarkets in this country. Fairtrade clothing though, is a different story. Let us start off by commending the clothing brands that do fair trade products in New Zealand, and they are doing a fantastic job! But, they are few and far between. Unfortunately, there isn’t a huge amount of variety available, especially when considering certified Fairtrade options. If you turn your focus to everyday clothing, that the average consumer sees as affordable; there is even less available.

What do we mean by saying we want ‘nationwide change’?
Our business mission is to make Fairtrade clothing more affordable and accessible in New Zealand; to remove as many barriers for consumers as we can. For example, having to buy from overseas is a barrier; so, we are bringing overseas brands to our shores, in New Zealand. In turn, we believe this can develop the movement, which ultimately leads to Fairtrade clothing becoming more prevalent (or even solely available) in the New Zealand fashion market. This is the change – where consumers have equal opportunity to choose between Fairtrade or conventional fashion.

The signs are already there, with recent social uproar over certain brands; people are opening their eyes, and they want change. Consumers want to know where their clothing is coming from and how the workers are treated. There is a movement beginning, and it is a movement of conscious consumers. To be a conscious consumer though, there needs to be transparency around the way the clothing being purchased was made. This is where the Fairtrade difference comes in!

Fairtrade in that change

The Fairtrade certification has been around for some time now, it is something we are pushing strongly, and the root of our whole business operation. Every item of clothing we are selling at Tummah Ethical Trade will be certified Fairtrade (in fact even our sports balls are certified Fairtrade!). You may be thinking though… why… what’s the difference… does clothing even need to be Fairtrade?

In the picture above, are Sugna Jat and her husband Nandaram Jat. They are cotton farmers in the Madhya Pradesh area of India, and they are under the Fairtrade banner! This means they get paid a fair amount for their cotton and as a result they can hire labourers and pay them a fair wage when they need to. Of equal importance, they aren’t just another statistic in the cotton farming industry. They are real people, and Fairtrade recognises this. It gives them dignity, and allows them the opportunity to improve their lives.
If you haven’t already had a look, please view the video next to the title “Fairtrade cotton example” here. This video tells of what Fairtrade has done for a community of cotton farmers in the West Africa country of Senegal.

There are many similar stories around the world about the impact Fairtrade is having on the lives of cotton farmers. The initiatives used by Fairtrade govern a relationship with producers which is unique in three key areas :

  • Economically: Because it guarantees a Minimum Price for what they farm, Fairtrade is helping growers to have more financial security – making them less vulnerable to poverty. In many cases, Fairtrade certification enables farmers to negotiate a higher price for their product than the conventional market price.”
  • Socially: “Investment of the Fairtrade Premium in community development projects like improved health facilities, access to education for children and adults, and sources of clean drinking water and adequate sanitation, is improving the quality of lives of people in rural communities. “
  • Enviromentally:”We help farmers adapt to the world’s changing climate, supporting long-term and positive ways of dealing with unpredictable weather patterns.  Fairtrade Standards also regulate substances used in farming, including pesticides and other chemicals. “

These principals apply to the cotton producers as much as they would to coffee, tea, or cocoa prodcucers. They are why Fairtrade is a must in the cotton industry. Compare this with 250,000 suicides in the last 15 years among conventional cotton farmers in India because of financial pressure, and you see that Fairtrade is an absolute no-brainer.

That’s exactly it for us, Fairtrade is and always will be a no-brainer. It’s not just for us to feel good about ourselves, it’s about realizing that the other option just isn’t acceptable. Most people don’t realise it, but the clothing you purchase could actually be leading to cotton farmers taking the most drastic measure of all. That’s not right and nobody wants that. For the people directly impacted, Fairtrade can literally mean life.

To us, it seemed pointless saying or believing all that without providing another option. Tummah Ethical Trade is our alternative… an alternative to the status quo of traditional fashion… a supporter and supplier of brands who promote everything that Fairtrade stands for and… an advocate for change.

We are doing our little bit to stand up and say we do care about people throughout the fashion supply chain – that those people are more than statistics! In Fairtrade, we have a better way forward. If you are thinking ‘enough is enough’; then please, do your little bit and choose Fairtrade! We certainly are!

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