Compassion in the time of Covid:
How are people behind the Etiko supply chain going?
By Sally Cunningham
Compassion is critical in 2020, countless people around the world have been impacted economically, socially and personally by the long reaching arm of Covid-19. People employed by Etiko in our factories in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are no exception and we have been trying our best to support our people from afar.
We are honouring all orders placed throughout the year, and continuing to place orders as required with the understanding that all goods will be made and shipped, but delays are to be expected. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called on the retailers of the world to support foreign workers in their supply chains by agreeing to honour all orders, payments and to not enforce ‘force majeure’ clauses in contracts. We have reached out to the ILO to let them know that we endorse and honour their call to action for the garment industry. You can read more about that here . What this means is that workers in the most vulnerable communities and labour environments can hope to be able to work when they are legally allowed to and or when their good health allows. A further call to action has been made by Baptist World Aid, who release the Ethical Fashion report each year, but like so many things the report this year will be different. The Ethical Fashion report will shift its focus to the impacts of Covid-19 on the garment industry workers of the world and the role and responsibility that retailers play in this cycle. Once again Etiko has endorsed and complied with the Covid Fashion Commitments outlined by Baptist World Aid which outlines fair conditions of trading with suppliers in the garment industry around the world. As of the end of September, India had recorded about 6 million cases and 95,000 deaths due to Covid-19. Our people in India have been on a rollercoaster journey of rolling lockdowns, periods of being allowed to work and not being allowed to work which impacts their livelihoods and deliverables. We have continued to stay in touch with local people about their unique set of challenges, including a period back in June when workers were allowed to return to factories only if they were manufacturing face masks. We placed our first face mask order of 2000 items and along with our partner factory RCM, they were distributed to a few charities across Calcutta. Since then we have ordered and delivered 1000’s of organic cotton, Fairtrade Certified face masks to Etiko customers, and a handful of retailers and commercial businesses. On top of this RCM have been able to produce our ongoing organic cotton orders, on their way to our warehouse in Melbourne.
Meanwhile over the border, the people who have been making Etiko sneakers in Pakistan have been going through a different set of challenges, as at the end of September Pakistan had recorded 310k cases and over 6400 deaths due to Covid-19. The disruptions to production have been minimal and we are impressed with the way the team have looked after all the staff during this time. We also have a relationship with a Fairtrade factory in Sri Lanka, who produce our Thongs for Good and at this stage Sri Lanka appears to be one of the exceptional nations that have seemingly controlled the spread of the virus with only 13 deaths and we sincerely hope they can avoid a surge in spread.
We don’t take any of this lightly and while our homeland of Australia has been focussed on it’s internal struggles, at Etiko our thoughts are never far from our extended community overseas.
We continue to communicate with our team on the ground to understand how each of our factories and all of their workers are impacted and to ensure we all continue our focus on sustainability. We try to maintain business as usual albeit at a delayed pace, with patience and compassion we will keep working towards worldwide wellbeing but for now we exercise patience.