Tearfund's Sophie Rice and Ethical Guide
'When we choose to shop ethically, we are effectively voting with our wallet to advocate for the freedom of those trapped in modern slavery and exploitation.'
You may have seen Tearfund's comprehensive new Ethical Fashion Guide released this month - a free resource transparently rating the the justness of New Zealand's clothing outlets.
WM catches up with Tearfund's Sophie Rice on how she sees the guide impacting her life, faith and the communities who need our advocation most.
So what is the Ethical Fashion Guide all about?
In collaboration with our partners at Baptist World Aid Australia, we measured New Zealand clothing brands against 40 specific criteria and awarded grades (A-F) to measure of the efforts each company undertook to promote and sustain ethical practices within their supply chain.
The guide is a super simple yet effective tool in making a tangible difference in the lives of those (mainly women and children) exploited within the garment industry. Download an Ethical Fashion Guide completely free here!
What does shopping 'ethically' mean (in your own words)?
To me, it means shopping in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The clothing industry is incredibly powerful but can be incredibly exploitative. If we choose to buy from brands that use ethical practices in their supply chains, we can enable this industry to be a force for good.
Is this guide something you will use (personally) to inform your shopping decisions?
Yes, absolutely! It's free, downloadable on phone or computer and it’s a super easy tool to use when I shop. I’ll use it because I believe we carry the story of the people who make our clothes. I want to buy clothes that tell a story of safe and fair working conditions for garment industry workers.
Is there an effect that can be felt meaningfully and commercially when we choose where to shop ethically, or is it only a drop in the bucket?
You would be amazed at the tangible difference your purchasing decisions can make. Since the first edition of The Ethical Fashion Report in 2013 in Australia, we’ve seen companies take significant steps to reduce exploitation in their supply chains. See the initial Ethical Fashion Guide Aotearoa New Zealand to compare the increase in ethical practices in the Australian Clothing Industry!
How can the way we each 'shop' reveal our outworking of the Gospel?
Jesus said his message was ‘good news to the poor’. (Luke 4:18)
His life embodied the practice of empowering and protecting vulnerable people who were at the margins of society, and restoring their dignity in the eyes of their society.
Today, the way we shop has a direct effect on either making it harder or easier for the most vulnerable to feed and clothe themselves and live with dignity. So choosing to buy from suppliers that avoid slavery and oppressive working conditions and that pay the living wage, shows we have joined with Jesus’ mission.
How can we join the ethical action?
Definitely download and use the guide! We’ve also come up with two easy-to-run events to bring your church community together and advocate for ethical fashion. We have free 'Action Packs' which you can request here - that include hard copies of the Ethical Fashion Guide, advertising materials for either event and an educational resource about ethical fashion and why it matters!
- Clothing Swap: Invite clothes swappers to bring a bag of unwanted clothing items to the event, where you can exchange these items with each other. Find a new wardrobe without having to buy anything new!
- The True Cost Documentary screening: Host a screening of The True Cost to educate people about the importance of ethical fashion, and start a discussion about how your community can take action to bring an end to worker exploitation.
You could even maximise the justice by turning these events into fundraisers for Tearfund's anti-trafficking and exploitation 'Protect sector' - combatting exploitation and trafficking in the Pacific, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal and Sri Lanka!
Head on over to Tearfund's website and have a look at the other incredible stuff they have going on. We appreciate Sophie taking the time to talk us through ethical fashion - and don't forget to use the guide as you consider your next outing!