OPINION:

The Day the Earth Got Fair

By: Allison Duncil

How did you imagine the day that would change the world forever? In my dreams, I thought it would come in the physical form of a dark billowing cloud, bursts of flames and ambient helicopter noise. Instead, it arrived silently with an unknown start date, leaving us to question everything around and inside of us. It came sooner than expected.

I value moments that make the world stop spinning for a second, because it brings us together.
Darkness has a way of exposing the good, the bad and the ugly of humanity, and the important thing is to not forget what we see and hear while it everything unfolds around us.

One of my most humbling realizations during all of this has been to watch previously erected systems quickly crumble before my very own eyes. The health care system, politics and more—we’ve been taught not to question or interfere with the way things are because it’s simpler not to get involved, they say. But now, we are waking up to a brand-new world every day, full of uncertainties, unanswered questions and it’s now up to us to figure out what the new puzzle of the world should look like. Deep down, I think many of us have always known that it’s up to us to make a difference, but COVID-19 has been the inevitable reminder that we can no longer ignore. Everyone should feel empowered to speak up, connect with others and engage in conversations with everyone—our individual choices truly count, and we have the power to make a difference.

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: IT’S COMPLICATED WITH FAST FASHION.

As COVID-19 brings our life on the treadmill to a screeching halt, we are hitting reset on our priorities and becoming more conscious of what we consume. We are craving comfort and sweatsuits, instead of cheaply made garments that are produced from manmade fabrics with chemicals that don’t fit right. We don’t need 50 versions of the same item; we just need enough to spark joy (one or two). People want to feel connected and supported by the companies they buy from, whether that’s through storytelling or ethical standards. In order to keep up, fast fashion companies need to be able to adapt to this new way of thinking. We need to re-think our current supply chains, reset the fashion calendar and create standards for transparency. The new wave of fashion calls for a circular economy, regenerative fashion supply chains and a digital-first way of thinking.


This is a call to the bigger companies to set these standards for the rest of the world: if they think long-term, drive demand for it and use their brand power to educate customers, more will follow. We need to take advantage of this shift in thinking and make the environment part of the equation because if we don’t, we face (fashion) extinction.

HOW CAN WE ENSURE A BETTER FUTURE FOR FASHION?

The reality is that without policy standards set in place, many bigger companies will continue to find loopholes in the system and exploit garment workers. So how can we tip the scale? Speak up, write to your city council member, have conversations with everyone and vote with your dollars. The Business Supply Chain & Transparency Act is one of these policies that needs to be reintroduced to Congress so that we can help promote companies that are adhering to the right standards and help the public make informed decisions about their future engagement with companies. The Act mandates that publicly traded or private entities with a minimum of $100 million in annual global receipts disclose the measures they take to address forced labor, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labor. Policies like this will help keep companies in check and support a better future for all.

Digital technology will also help play an important role in moving towards a brighter future. Going back to creating a true circular economy: there’s an opportunity for digital software to help with closing the loop on linear supply chains. PLM (Product Life Management) is one of these existing systems that many large companies already use to manage complex product information, manufacturing workflows and collaboration. The issue is that most retailers don’t use it to track product after it’s in consumer ownership; however, in a recent WhichPLM article written by Annabel Lindsay, she discusses how retailers can take this opportunity to innovate product tracking systems and go one step further by identifying what happens to items after they’ve been bought, worn and are ready to be recycled back into existing resources.

HOW CAN I HELP?

I am only one chord in this gigantic wave of voices. But I do believe that every conversation makes an impact—maybe not right now, maybe not tomorrow, but we never know how one exchange could lead to many other discussions about changing one part of the supply chain. I believe that we’re all here for a reason, and it’s our duty to find out what that is as soon as possible so that you can start living your truth. And now, more than ever, we can use our resources to let others know what’s really important to us: transparency, circularity, and local supply chains. 

WHAT IS THE NYC FAIR TRADE COALITION & MAKE MANHATTAN FAIR CAMPAIGN?

As a member of the NYC Fair Trade Coalition and Make Manhattan Fair Campaign, I’m constantly looking for new, innovative ways to connect with the community and bridge gaps of fairness for the future. I’m constantly inspired and motivated by our fellow advocates and business members that are doing their part to make a difference every day.

The NYC Fair Trade Coalition is a grassroots organization that promotes Fair Trade businesses and retailers in New York City and educates consumers on the importance of fair trade. Made up of both Fair Trade businesses and advocates, it is a great organization for networking and engaging the public in healthy dialogue.

The Make Manhattan Fair Campaign is working towards making the borough of Manhattan a Fair Trade Town with Fair Trade Campaigns. We’re currently engaging retailers and community organizations, hosting educational events and working to pass a resolution with the city. Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks to support marginalized producers and workers. We’re part of a global effort to normalize Fair Trade as consumer preference across 24 countries and on six continents. If you’d like to get involved and join the fight, please follow us on Instagram, sign up for our newsletter and send us a message at makemanhattanfair@gmail.com or info@nycfairtradecoalition.org.