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Through our Freedom Businesses project, Banzaid supports the expansion of the Freeset programme in West Bengal. Freeset bags, tee shirts, scarves and other products sold in New Zealand provide employment for women in West Bengal. The 2018 Ethical Fashion Guide has ranked Freeset at # 4 out of 114 New Zealand and Australian companies surveyed. This is a recognition of the high standards that are in place for Freeset staff.

The Ethical Fashion Guide ranks brands by grade from A – F. This is based on how well they protect their workers from exploitation. This year they have covered 114 companies representing 407 brands. The review for each company covers four areas of their operations:

• Policies – that address the risks of worker exploitation

• Supply Chain – not just looking at the workers who sew the garments, but going right back to the raw material that are used.

• Audits – regular on site checks that the standards set in the policies are being met in the factories.

• Empowering Workers – workers have their voices heard in the wage setting process and in having good complaints systems.

It has been five years since the world witnessed the worst garment-factory disaster in history. On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza building collapsed just outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, claiming the lives of 1,134 garment workers and injuring thousands more.

That event prompted Baptist World Aid Australia to start the Ethical Fashion Guide. This is an annual review of companies selling clothing items in Australia and New Zealand which asks them what standards they have for the workers who produce the products they are selling us.

They began with a focus on Australian companies, but then Tearfund New Zealand joined in to extend the survey to New Zealand as well. The fifth annual report was published on 18 April.

What does justice look like in our context? How much of what we buy and use has been produced by people working in very exploitative conditions? Globalisation has moved production to the cheap labour countries. This has been great for the development of those countries, bringing employment opportunities to many millions, and lifting them out of poverty. However the opportunity of cheap labour has too often resulted in exploitation.

Conditions in some of the factories has been appalling even by developing world standards. By insisting on higher standards in their factories, New Zealand retailers can improve those conditions.

“The Ethical Fashion Guide gives you the opportunity to have a direct impact on the wellbeing of garment workers in developing countries. When you choose ethical clothing, you are voting against exploitation and for safe, fair working conditions.”

What does justice look like in our context? Making a stand can take many forms. It might be being willing to walk in solidarity in boycotting an unjust company, or it may be teaching your family, your church, your community what justice is, so that a growing knowledge will translate into a wider discontent and resilience against injustice.

Banzaid congratulates Freeset on their ‘A+’, and we encourage our supporters to download the Guide and support those companies that have proved their standards.

Download the Guide here
Download the full Report here

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