The Apr. 24 garment factory collapse that killed more than a thousand workers in Bangladesh brought attention to wealthy Westerners’ responsibility for our consumer choices. Fair Trade organization Ten Thousand Villages offers this advice for mindful shopping:
◊ Ask questions. If you’re unsure where a garment is made, ask the retailer. What kind of assurances can they give you that the piece of clothing was not made in a sweatshop?
◊ Don’t assume that because the item costs more, it was produced in an ethical way. In many cases, that’s true, but higher prices can also simply cover high marketing, branding, and supply chain costs.
◊ Demand good governance in the region. Boycotting Bangladeshi garments is not necessarily the answer. Although tragedies make headlines, there are ethically run, safe, and respectful garment manufacturers in the country who employ thousands of men and women.
—Ten Thousand Villages, a non-profit program of Mennonite Central Committee Canada, is the oldest and largest Fair Trade organization in North America and works with artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed.