The Brazilian World Cup highlighted one thing for me beyond any other: there is great inequality in our little world.
In the midst of carnivals, beaches, and of course football, there is also endless poverty, child prostitution, and protests. The disparity between rich and poor is stark. And while many have questioned how one country can allow both to sit right next to each other, my question is ‘how can all of us, as citizens of the earth, allow such deep inequalities to exist throughout the whole world’?
One of the ways we all interact with global inequalities is through our clothing. Cotton from India, is exported to factories in China, shipped to European ports, and sold to us in British stores. The profits largely remain in the pockets of retailers, while factory workers and cotton farmers are left short-changed. Sold as the economics of supply and demand, the façade of our global economic structure conceals the relationship of the rich and the poor.
This type of supply chain is expressed by the ‘Dependency Theory’, which conveys the idea that the development of one country creates the underdevelopment in another. Instead of blaming the poor for their inability to develop, the blame shifts onto the rich that inhibit the poor’s development.
It’s cutting stuff isn’t it? I find it difficult to believe I’m on the richest people in the world. You might too. But if you receive over £345 per week, then you’re in the top two per cent. And because you and I are ‘the rich’, that makes us part of the problem for the poor’s underdevelopment.
We’ve all heard statistics and stories about human trafficking that make us shudder and, in the clothing industry, trafficking is rife. In Uzbekistan, thousands are forced out of school to pick cotton under threats of abuse. In India, the Sumangali scheme binds women and children into mills and factories with limited freedom, abuse and no payment for the majority.
#MyNextBuy was birthed with the desire to see this radically change. Rather than us, the rich, being part of the problem, let’s be part of the solution that stops trafficking in the cotton industry.
#MyNextBuy is a simple and powerful idea, inspired by Stop the Traffik’s Fashion Protocol, for retailers and consumers to be part of the solution together instead of shifting the blame of who’s responsible. Clothing retailers pledge that they will be transparent about their supply chains, insist on working contracts for all employees, and have external audits. Also, you and I pledge that our next buy is more ethical than our last.
Why does this matter? Because people matter in the kingdom of God. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” By making a pledge, you’re inviting the kingdom of God to earth for our brothers and sisters – and it can start with your next buy.