April 24 2014 will mark the first anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh, which claimed the lives of 1,129 people.
The tragedy was seen as a wake-up call to a western fashion industry that had been operating an unsustainable supply chain for decades, and campaigners have spent the past 12 months demanding that the fashion brands whose clothes were made in the factory sign up for a stricter set of safety regulations.
At times, it has seemed that this call for corporate responsibility has been slightly sterile, obscuring the stories of the real people affected by the Rana Plaza collapse: families of the dead, injured survivors, a whole community that relied on the factory for work. Rainbow Collective‘s dedicated initiative Raising for Rana is bringing that focus back to Bangladesh with an event in London on the anniversary of the tragedy, featuring the premiere of its new not-for-profit documentary, Tears In The Fabric.
The film, by Hannan Majid and Richard York, follows the life of Razia Begum, a grandmother who is caring for her two young grandsons after losing her two daughters and a son-in-law in the disaster. While having to come to terms with an enormous personal loss, Razia is also struggling with homelessness – the result of losing her family’s livelihood – and fighting for compensation from the brands involved in the disaster.
Rainbow Collective seeks to shape the Bangladesh clothing industry positively, to create a future for Razia’s grandchildren and their community. “The brands need to look at the way that they are doing business in Bangladesh and, rather than exploit the workforce for as many hours and as little pay as possible, should be looking at how they can develop the industry into a safe and happy workplace“, says Danielle Gregory, volunteer event co-ordinator at the organisation. “The garments industry has had a huge positive impact on Bangladesh’s economy and society and employment has increased – especially for women – but this shouldn’t be done through cheap labour and exploitation.”
Raising for Rana will also include a charity auction featuring ethically produced clothing, accessories, homeware and other items donated by a variety of businesses, with 100% of funds raised reaching Rainbow Collective’s partners on the ground in Bangladesh.
Angela Pereira Alves, director of Dew Organic Clothing, is among the fashion designers offering contributions – in her case, a one-off LBD: a demonstration of a dedication to ‘slow fashion’ in the face of industry pressure.
“Sales are becoming more and more frequent and new collections arrive in store every few months“, she says. “It leaves people feeling pressurised to get the latest trend and wanting more; the retailers are pushing the ‘we must get it now before it goes’ trigger buttons. The cleverly orchestrated marketing campaigns are such a powerful tool, even using the study of psychology behind consumer behaviours. Consumers are made to become ’emotional prisoners’ in this selfish cycle of consumerism.
“What we need to understand also is that this fast fashion culture has only been made possible by the direct exploitation of thousands of people in developing countries and outrageous disrespect for our beautiful planet.”
Gregory agrees that the buying public has an integral role to play: “Consumers must understand that cheap clothes usually means cheap labour. As consumers we have a responsibility to demand that our clothes are made fairly and to pressure the brands into signing up to the new fire and building safety agreement.”
Pereira Alves is also calling on independent organisations to step in as advisers, assessors and supervisors in collaboration with industry experts, and for the government to offer support to businesses that opt to become more ethical.
She adds: “There is a fine balance between promoting successful businesses, helping economies in developing countries and growing employment opportunities but nothing tells us that it cannot be done in a safer, more respectful and ethical environment.”
The Raising for Rana event will take place on Thursday April 24 at Regent’s University London. Donations are being accepted via www.justgiving.com/NGWF and charity auction bids at www.myminiauction.com/rana, while businesses are still invited to donate products and services towards the fundraiser. Please contact Raising for Rana via email. The documentary Tears In The Fabric will be available to watch online from April 25.
Morwenna Kearns is a freelance writer, online editor and PR and social media manager for businesses and organisations running the sustainability and ethical gamut, from fashion to food to filmmaking. She also works within the visual communications sector. Morwenna can be found tweeting as @morwennakearns, blogging about ethical fashion and beauty at GreenGlitter.co.uk and editing environmental business news at SustainableReview.net.
4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again
As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.
Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.
Jars and Containers
Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.
An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.
Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!
If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!
Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!
These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money
The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.
Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.
Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.
Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale
The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.
Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.
Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI
It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.
Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.
Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.
Implementing green changes without a plan
Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.
Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:
- How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
- How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
- How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
- How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?
The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.
Not considering the benefits of green printing
Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.
Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.
According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:
- They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
- They consume less energy than traditional printers.
- They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.
You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.
Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers
Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.
The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.
You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.
Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.
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