Posts Tagged ‘Bangladesh’

Russell Brand sweatshirts from sweatshops?

June 12, 2015

Many garment-producing countries have minimum wages that are less than half of the value of a wage that is enough to allow a family to live with dignity. — Anna McMullen, Labour Behind the Label

A hatchet job in the Daily Mail, shock horror, Russell Brand exploiting Bangladeshi workers in their sweatshops to expand his evil clothing empire.

Shoddy reporting. Nothing more than a hatchet job on Russell Brand. Weasel words like grade-A hypocrite.

Russell Brand made a mistake. In good faith he placed a contract with assurances on production. When these assurances proved to be false, he admitted he got it wrong, pulled the contract.

Could the reporter not have gone to Russell Brand and said, did you know the conditions of production? But no, run to Daily Mail, Do Not Pass Go, collect thirty pieces of silver on the way.

Surely the focus should be on the company,  not Russell Brand? For who else are they delivering non-ethical clothes?

The company, Belgium-based  Stanley & Stella, admitted to the Daily Mail it had problems with illegal overtime in the Bangladesh factories.

According to the Daily Mail its clients include Next, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

Stanley & Stella claim its workers are paid more and forced to do less overtime than in rival factories

The most important thing that makes our business a sustainable business, it is that we commit to have continuous improvements pushing forward all kind of barriers.

The company claims it is working to reduce illegal levels of overtime at the factory and had ended contracts with other factories which refused to stop pushing workers into 90-hour weeks.

Even the Daily Mail is forced to admit that industry regulator, Fair Wear Foundation, says the factory is one of the best employers in the country and pays more than other less scrupulous operators.

Thus even from accounts in the Daily Mail, the company Russell Brand placed his contract with is better than the industry average, not only better ‘one of the best employers in the country and pays more than other less scrupulous operators’. Not good, not ideal, but not quite as bad as the Daily Mail would have its readers to believe.

If the Daily Mail is now so keen to highlight the plight of workers in Third World sweatshops, will we be reading a few more stories, the first of a series, this time highlighting the big name fashion brands? Will the Daily Mail be refusing adverts from these brands until they clean up their act?

Stanley & Stella claim high ethical standards, that they are on the ground monitoring factories. How do they then explain workers paid less than a living wage, forced to do illegal overtime? How do they justify the huge disparity between low production costs and high retail price?

The Mail has discovered that those who make sweatshirts for Brand’s website work for up to 11 hours a day.

The starting monthly wage is 6,200 Bangladeshi taka (TK) a month, or around £52. This works out at around £1.98 a day, excluding overtime.

The minimum legal wage for Bangladesh is TK5,300 (£44.21) per month. That is far short of the TK25,687 – around £214 – which campaigners say is the minimum living wage.

Russell Brand placed his contract in good faith.

A big difference to the fashion industry whose buyers know exactly what is going on. They play factory against factory, country against country, to force down prices. They could just as easily use their buying power to force up labour and environmental standards, but they do not.

But real issues are raised. Workers are being exploited in sweatshops, not only by Primark, also brands selling expensive clothes, with massive mark-ups, fools and their money easily parted for a label.

Factory gate price around a dollar, retail in the shops around $70. A huge mark up. The wages to the workers could easily be doubled, and it would make not a jot of difference to the retail price.

Gap, WalMart, Hugo Boss, a very long list.

What you pay for is the label.

If the Daily Mail was interested in the fate of workers in sweatshops, they would be exposing Gap and other big names.

Big names play one factory against another, one country against another, to force down prices. They know what goes on in the factories, but prefer to turn a blind eye.

Questions need to be answered by Russell Brand on the massive mark up, where the clothes are being made, the wages of the workers, the hours worked, the working conditions.

Also, what social enterprises are being supported? We know Trew Era Cafe has been supported with money from Revolution.

Transparency is important for credibility. Set higher standards, force others to follow.

Slow fashion. Unbleached natural organic cotton, kinder on the environment, softer on the skin, looks good too. If dyes are to be used, then natural dyes.

Cotton is a very dirty crop. It uses vast amounts of water, huge amounts of chemicals. More water, more chemicals in the processing of the cotton. The clothes are usually made in Third World sweatshops.

Industrial cotton is one of the most environmentally damaging crops that Man grows. Organic cotton is much pleasanter to wear. Organic cotton is biodegradable and can easily be recycled.

Industrial cotton requires an enormous amount of pesticide to keep it viable. Each pound of product requires a third of a pound of pesticides, which adds up to 25 percent of all pesticides used in the US for 13 million acres of cotton. Many cotton pesticides are EPA toxicity class I, like the viciously effective insecticides Methomyl and Methyl Parathion. A study by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation revealed that pesticide usage per acre increased during the 1991 to 1995 period by 4.21 pounds to 14.15 pounds per acre. The reality in the Third World, where pesticide regulation is more relaxed, is much worse.

Commercial white cotton is by far the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world and a major global crop. Fifty-five countries rely upon cotton for a significant percent of GDP. Cotton processing also takes another toxic toll, as the use of chlorine bleaching agents, formaldehydes and phenols is quite dangerous to all life. Fabric dyes utilizing arsenic, lead, cadmium, cobalt, zinc, and chromium are also very problematic. All processing stages produce large amounts of toxic wastewater. Azo dyes are cheap and common, about 2,000 exist. Many are water based and possess highly carcinogenic material absorbed by the skin and accumulated in the body. Inhalation, aquatic exposure or simple skin contact can be harmful. The EU has banned import and usage of the more toxic versions containing arylamines, though these products are used elsewhere. Other acid dyes produce waste streams with pH values above 11 and with possible carcinogen content.

Organic cotton is good for the planet, good for ourselves.

Natural cotton does not have to be any colour so long as it is off-white. Cotton grows in varying hues from purple to brown. Cross-breeding programmes have selected cotton of red, blue, green. This eliminates the need for dyes.

Slow fashion would set a standard. Clothes that look good, clothes that last. Style not fashion. Fashion is consumer addiction.

If people ask questions where their clothes come from, we would see an improvement.

Labour Behind the Label are the people to talk to about sweatshops. Maybe a Trews on the topic.

Labour Behind the Label are part of a European network on sweatshops.

Maybe a different approach is needed.

A few years ago, Paulo Coelho did a deal, whereby Mango sold limited edition t-shirts. The proceeds went to support kids in a favela in Rio through the Paulo Coelho Institute. Paulo and his wife Christina support these kids. One way is selling limited edition art and jewellery through Etsy.

The Way of the Bow has been produced as a collaborative effort. People can download for free. If they wish, they can make a donation to support the kids in the favela.

We used to have dark Satanic mills producing fabrics, they dominated the landscape. Now few are left. In their heyday they destroyed the India cotton industry, now it is the other way around. But, take into account shipping, employment conditions, it is now viable to produce quality clothes in these mills. Maybe one can be contracted to produce, or maybe the model Paulo Coelho used with Mango.

The East End of London used to be home to many sweatshops. Do any still exist?

Talking to my own contacts. T-shirts/sweatshirts retailing at a tenner, a fiver from supplier. A 100% mark-up. Supplier sources direct from sweatshops in Bangladesh. How much would it cost to source if specified unbleached organic cotton, living wage, no illegal overtime?

Advantage of production in the dark Satanic mills is better control. Can we trust what we are told in Bangladesh with the level of corruption?

Look to Barcelona, interlocking coops. When something is needed, a new coop is established. Crowd fund one of the East End sweatshops as a coop. Community owned, better pay and working conditions, producing clothes for other social enterprises.

The design of the sweatshirts poor. Remove what is on the back, retain small logo on the front. This would also reduce costs.


November 26, 2012

In their greed to get into a Wal-Mart store, not panic to get out of a burning building, shoppers trampled to death a Wal-Mart employee.

How debased have human beings become?

In Bangladesh, a sweatshop factory has caught fire killing over 100 workers. It was making clothes for Wal-Mart.

Only a few weeks ago, a sweatshop in Bangladesh or Pakistan caught fire. Who were they producing for?

Fatal fires are commonplace in sweatshops in Bangladesh.

Gap, Wal-Mart they know the conditions of sweatshops, but they choose to turn a blind eye.

Since 2006, more than 500 Bangladeshi workers have died in sweatshop fires.

Tensions have been running high between workers, who have been demanding an increase in minimum wages, and the factory owners and government. A union organizer, Aminul Islam, who campaigned for better working conditions and higher wages, was found tortured and killed outside Dhaka this year.

Ignorance and greed

March 13, 2011
Demonstrations in Dhaka these days, supporting Yunus

Demonstrations in Dhaka these days, supporting Yunus

I was teaching in one of the universities while the country was suffering from a severe famine. People were dying of hunger, and I felt very helpless. As an economist, I had no tool in my tool box to fix that kind of situation.

I went to the bank and proposed that they lend money to the poor people. The bankers almost fell over.
They explained to me that the bank cannot lend money to the poor.

Mohammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate, is one of the persons I most admire in today’s world. That’s why I choose him to be one of my CHARACTER OF THE WEEK in this blog.

A man who made a gigantic difference in this world by creating the microcredit, Yunus now have to face ignorance and greed.

Some alarming events have unfolded over the last days. This reached a climax on March 8th when the High Court of Bangladesh upheld the Central Bank’s decision to remove Professor Yunus from his post as Managing Director of the Grameen Bank, which he founded over three decades ago.

Poor people are a like bonsai tree, a little tree.

You pick the seed of the tallest tree in the forest and take the best seed out of it, and plant it in a flower pot. You get a tiny little tree, we call it a bonsai.

Nothing wrong with the seed, you’ve got the best seed possible.

Nothing wrong with the tree, because you actually picked the tallest tree in the forest.

But actually it grows this far… why? Because we put them in the flower pot. The base.

We need to change the base.

Next Tuesday the ultimate decision about Prof. Yunus’ position as Managing Director of Grameen Bank will be taken by the Supreme Court. If the verdict is negative, Prof. Yunus would have to leave Grameen Bank and probably also his house. Yunus Centre could be shut down in order to block international communication and Prof. Yunus might even be arrested if he continues fighting after the verdict.

The only weapon that we currently have and that the government doesn’t, is international awareness and presence in media and people’s heads!

Defending the integrity of Professor Yunus, and fighting for him to remain involved in the Grameen Bank and ensuring a smooth transition, is crucial in order to preserve the independence of this unique model which has helped lift over 8 million people out of poverty in Bangladesh.

Poverty is unnecessary.

Published by Paulo Coelho on his blog.

I heard this on the BBC World Service a few days ago. I am baffled. Why is there an attempt to remove Mohammad Yunus from the Grameen Bank? He has done a lot of good. Or is it that the rich and powerful in corrupt Bangladesh feel threatened when the poor are empowered?

Like Paulo Coelho, although I have never met Mohammad Yunus, he has a great deal of respect from me.

More information from Friends of Grameen.

Muhammad Yunus and social enterprise
Creating a World Without Poverty

A story to inspire all of us

November 18, 2009
Tererai Trent on Oprah Winfrey show

Tererai Trent on Oprah Winfrey show

‘When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dreams.’ — Paulo Coelho

‘Any time anyone tells you that a dream is impossible, any time you’re discouraged by impossible challenges, just mutter this mantra: Tererai Trent.’ — Nicholas D. Kristof

‘My personal story is not about me. I think my story personalises the possibilities Heifer International offers to women and girls who are struggling to achieve equality and social justice.’ — Tererai Trent

Tererai Trent (pronounced TEH-reh-rye) was married off at the age of 11 to a man who regularly beat her, had less than a year of formal education (her father thought education was wasted on girls). Hardly the most auspicious start in life. Sadly the tale of many women in rural Africa. When Heifer International visited her village in Zimbabwe and asked what were her dreams, she wrote them down on a sheet of paper: study abroad, obtain a degree, a master’s degree, then a PhD. Most unlikely goals for a semi-literate African women, equally surprising that these gaols should enter her head, that she was even aware of a master’s degrees or doctorate.

What Tererai Trent found hard to believe was that the head of Heifer International Jo Luck had come to her village and was prepared to sit down in the dirt with them and ask them to express their dreams.

She went to work for Heifer and several Christian organisations as a community organiser. She saved every penny she could, undertook correspondence courses.

In 1998 she was accepted into Oklahoma State University, but she insisted on taking her five children with her. She feared that if she left them behind her husband would marry them off. Her husband would only agree to her taking them with her if he came too.

Heifer pitched in with funding, her mother sold a cow, friends and neighbours helped. She managed to raise $4,000 and set of to the US with kids and unwanted husband in tow.

An impossible dream come true, but the dream turned into a nightmare. She had no money, mouths to feed and a bone idle husband who refused to work but regularly beat her.

With no money they were forced to eat out of trash cans. She worked all hours to try and earn enough money to get by. The crunch came when behind with her fees she was facing expulsion from the university.

Luckily for her the local community and church stepped in to help her. She was found low cost housing. A sympathetic Wal-Mart employee would give her the nod and leave past sell-by-date food for her to pick up. Her violent husband was kicked out of the Sates and deported back to Zimbabwe.

Working all hours, she managed to get her degree on education in agriculture, then whilst she was working on her master’s degree, her husband returned from Zimbabwe dying of AIDS. Feeling sorry for him, she took him back and looked after him until he died.

She has now completed her dissertation on AIDS prevention in Africa for her PhD at Western Michigan University, whilst at the same time working as a programme evaluator for Heifer.

Next month she will be awarded her PhD. Finally she will be able to tick of the last item on her list, and yes, she still has the sheet of paper on which she had written her dreams. The list she had placed in a tin and buried in the ground. She would return, unearth her tin box and tick off her dreams one by one. She is now encouraging other girls to do the same, write out your dreams, bury then in a tin box so that they are not forgotten, then as your realise your dreams, return to your tin box, unearth it and tick off your dreams.

How many people are told their dreams are unrealistic, to forget them?

Tererai Trent is now the Deputy Director for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at Heifer International.

Maybe she is the exception not the rule.

In Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus established the Grameen Bank. He knew nothing about banking, but he did not let that stop him. He lent small amounts of money to people who needed it. People who commercial banks would not lend to. The only criteria was that they needed the money and the community would stand as guarantors. But only to the women as the men could not be trusted with the money.

The attitude Muhammad Yunus takes is if you can survive in the Third World on less than $1 a day, then you have amazing entrepreneurial skills. All you need is a little seed capital to succeed. And his faith in people has been justly rewarded.

I went to a very rough school. The people I used to know then are either dead or in prison. It was the sort of school where you carried a knife and knew how to us it. You were dumped into shit jobs. You were brainwashed into taking shit jobs. When asked what I wanted to do I said go to university. I was laughed at. But I proved them wrong.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a modern fable. Santiago an Andalusian shepherd boy decides to follow his dream. He sells his sheep, with gold in his pocket, he travels across to Morocco. But tragedy befalls him on his very first day. He allows a stranger he trusts to run off with all his money, leaving him with nothing. The day before he had been a shepherd with a flock of sheep, that morning he had gold in his purse. Now he is left penniless in a strange and foreign land. Most people would have given up. Santiago sits crying in the square, but then he picks himself up, and thinks to himself, well I always wanted adventure and this is the start of a great adventure.

The universe conspires to help us realise our dreams. Santiago learnt to read the symbols, the language of the Soul of the World.

How many of us follow our dreams? How many of us bemoan our fate? The difference is there are those who grasp the opportunities life offers us, those who do not.

I am often called upon to help the less fortunate in life. I will help them to get back on their feet, but if it is tea and sympathy they are looking for, then they have come to the wrong person. For what I find in nearly all cases is that it is not that Fate has dealt them a bad hand as they would like everyone to believe, it is because they have failed to grasp the opportunities life has given them. Even when you give them a helping hand and point them in the right direction, rather than heed the advice given and help themselves, they would rather expend the effort on bemoaning how hard done by they are.

Next time someone bemoans their hard life and tries to tell you their hard luck story, tell them the story of Tererai Trent, hand them a copy of The Alchemist and suggest that they read it.

Special thanks to Paulo Coelho and Jane Stewart for drawing to my attention the story of Tererai Trent and Priya Sher for pointing me to the article on luck. And for my lovely friend Claire from Zimbabwe who was impatient to read what I was writing.


Triumph of a Dreamer

Half the Sky

Hope in a Box

Creating a World Without Poverty

Be lucky – it’s an easy skill to learn

10,000 hours

The Alchemist

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