Upon my first visit to India, it became clear to me that as a brand owner, I could choose to do things a better way and by doing this, empower hundreds of people far less fortunate than us back here in Australia.
I visited India with Fair Trade and Ethical Clothing Australia in 2017 and it solidified my belief in only using ethically certified factories here in Australia and farms and factories in India. We travelled around India seeing first hand where our cotton is grown in organic farms, far away from toxic conventional cotton farms where crops are sprayed with harmful chemicals. The organic farmers use only natural deterrents like chilli, capsicum and garlic to keep the pests away. We also learnt that organic farms only rely on rain water – not irrigation so our organic cotton does not consume huge amounts of water, instead it relies on nature. The cotton farms are also supported by a co-operative which means that if the crop fails, the farmers still get support. I also saw first hand that many of the workers in the fields are women.
The farming co-operative we are choosing to support, Chetna Cooperative, is accredited by Fair Trade which means that the workers earn a living wage. They are supported in many ways and whilst I was there visiting, they were donating cookers to the workers to save time at night after a long day in the fields when they go home to cook for their families. We also visited a school that Chetna founded to allow the young girls to go right through school, a luxury in India not afforded to all. Seeing these girls dancing and smiling made my heart sing!
On my most recent trip to India in December, 2019, I again was lucky enough to travel with Fair Trade Australia. This time, I travelled with Clive Marriot who is a wealth of knowledge on both FT and organic materials and manufacturing. I started working with my manufacturing factory in Kolkata who are Fair Trade accredited and certified organic. We spent hours going through the working conditions with the management, visiting every factory floor, talking to the workers and listening to understand. There is also the difference between a living wage and a minimum wage, we seek to work with factories that pay a living wage and provide safe & excellent working conditions.
For years I have heard that the happiest people are the people on this planet with the least.. I can attest to this. The people I met whilst in India are the kindest, happiest and filled with so much love. It saddens me to think that so many businesses choose to exploit people in this country for monetary gain. I am of the belief that things will change and people will start to vote with their dollar, choosing to support brands that support the workers. I am incredibly proud to be accredited by Fair Trade whilst manufacturing in India as it ensures we stand by what we believe in. Traceability and transparency from seed to store is our mission.
Kindest, Mel x
Organic Crew Founder & Director