On May 27, School House CEO Rachel Weeks visited FLA headquarters in Washington, D.C., to update staff on the development of her business and share lessons she learned while working in Sri Lanka to help ensure women were paid a living wage while producing School House apparel. School House was the first company to visit FLA’s new headquarters location, and staff gathered to hear Weeks’ story.
In 2007, Weeks traveled to Sri Lanka as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar with the goal of launching her own ethical fashion line and bringing more stylish and customized collegiate apparel to Duke – her alma mater. In a short time, Weeks hired a designer, found a factory, and started producing her clothing line. The most important part of her business? Paying premium prices to the factory to provide a living wage for the workers producing School House apparel.
“Students don’t often stop to consider that they can have their cake and eat it too – they think that they have to choose between being ethical and being fashionable,” Weeks said during her visit. “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. My goal with School House is to create clothes people want to wear while ensuring a living wage is being paid during production.”
Although Weeks started her company with ethical sourcing in mind, she recognizes that many of the big brands are working to overcome huge barriers to ethical production. “Consumers should be willing to recognize companies’ efforts to improve. Sometimes we don’t realize the enormous challenges companies are up against in managing global supply chains,” Weeks said. Read the rest of this entry »
In February, FLA President & CEO Auret van Heerden participated in a workshop – Company Responsibilities in Countries with Human Rights Challenges – organized by the Business Humanitarian Forum and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
The event was held against the backdrop of the recently published draft report “Guiding Principles for the Implementation of the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework” by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie.
Auret discussed FLA’s role in improving working conditions around the world and providing the public with information it can use to make informed purchasing decisions. Auret stressed the fundamental contradiction between the buying and manufacturing ends of the chain: the buyer expects the supplier to deliver cheap products and services while respecting working standards. However, global competitive pressures within supply chains are making it very hard for suppliers meet both these, often conflicting, demands.
Consumers – often unknowingly – drive these pressures through their demand for ever-lower prices. We may not realize or want to acknowledge that the lower prices of the products we love to consume are ultimately paid for by workers’ wages. But we have to take responsibility for our purchasing decisions, recognizing our own role in the global supply chain to ensure sustainability and protect workers’ rights.
Read the full workshop report here.