Fairtrade Should Never Be Free

Fairtrade Should Never Be Free
Each week we at Etiko get an email or phone from some well-meaning people from NGOs, Churches, Eco-Events, Film Festivals, Social Justice, School, Sports club and Vegan groups asking us to donate some of our products or to sponsor their event.

In the past, we’ve generally agreed to these request but more recently we’ve decided to start saying no!

Fairtrade products should never be free. Ever. Even asking goes against what fairtrade stands for. Sure, we at Etiko want the world to have access to ethical/fairtrade clothing, footwear and sports gear but free does not work in a world where everyone gets treated fairly. Large brands and retailers provide sponsorships because they have low costs (they don’t pay anywhere near the ‘true cost’ of the products that they on sell to consumers), an advantage genuine ethical brands like Etiko do not have.

Now our society has been conditioned to ask for free product sponsorships without thinking of what that really means. We get many requests here at Etiko from NGOs, Churches, Eco-Events, Film Festivals, Social Justice and Vegan groups asking us to donate our fairtrade footwear, clothing and sports gear. If you are from one of these groups or you’re even thinking about it …we need you to STOP. We don't mean to just stop asking just us, you need to stop in general. ‘Free’ stuff and sponsorship doesn’t work for genuine ethical clothing brands and it only promotes the unethical big industry we are all trying to avoid.

Our pockets are as shallow as yours.

We are exceptionally proud of the awards we have won regarding our positive social and environmental practices. But most fair trade businesses are small and don’t make nearly as much money as people like to think. Etiko is a small business that has bootstrapped its way over 10 years to become Australia's most ethical fashion brand. Ethical comes at a price and this keeps margins small. Freebies are simply not an option for us. Society has developed a misconception that a business must be rich. We watch large clothing brands give away thousands of T-shirts and assume everyone should do that. Instead, we need to stop and think, “how can they afford to do that?” Well, the average person working in an Indian clothing factory makes about 40 cents an hour. This is well below the livable minimum wage in India. When everyone gets paid fairly in the supply chain, giant bank accounts do not exist. Stop comparing us to non-fair trade big business.

Social movements should change cultural norms

When you ask us to ‘donate’ t-shirts for your event , you're saying you don't value the effort that has been put in to produce a t-shirt. Imagine if we went to the cotton grower or mill workers in India and said, “Hey! We are throwing a party in the west and need free stuff, so we don’t think you should be paid for your work today. Trust us. It’s for a good cause.” Seems a little silly to say, right?  Even within Australia, should we skip import tax, paying the port workers or the Australian printers that are being decimated by unethical printing shops? Of course not. Society has dealt with ‘free’ for so long we have become detached from reality. If everyone gets paid properly, product costs more. Giving items away so you can have cool “swag” at your film screening lacks genuine thought of what you actually want to support.

The solution?

Offer value to ethical brands like Etiko instead of expecting handouts. Please stop expecting free merchandise because it is simply not the way to encourage everyone in a supply chain to get fair wages or fair price for their produce.

Instead come to us with ideas for promotion or how you can make our donation mutually beneficial. No, this does not simply mean throwing our name on a small pamphlet or flash the Etiko logo on a screen. Be creative and we will gladly consider helping you out but we cannot give you the shirt off our backs when we have no shirt to wear.

If after reading this blog you still want us to help your cause then send an email to admin@etiko.com.au …and don’t forget to tell us how you plan to help Etiko help you.