By Edie Strachan, Ontario Public Service Employees Union (Canada)
This event was sponsored by HERO New York and moderated by founder Alissa Lentz.
I selected this course based on the title and on the presumption it would be about FEMtorship and Inspiring the next generation of leaders. The forum was actually about ethical fashion and what that means in a broader context. The panel brought together founders of ethical fashion lines, the non-profit sector, manufacturing and media for a conversation on ethical fashion and the potential for empowering women and girls around the world. Topics of discussion were varied but motivated by the principles of economic, environmental and social sustainability.
Two things resonated with me. The first was hearing about the successes of micro-loans like Kiva that support women looking to create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities because ‘Dreams are Universal – Opportunities are Not’.
The second was about how Made-In-America often means made in US prisons and the subsequent exploitation of US prisoners (who are disproportionately racialized) making as little as .23/hr. Not only do these companies gain exploited labour they receive millions in government tax breaks which could have been better spent on public services.
I also shared a personal success story with the group. Many people think unions are only about grievances and contracts. As a Uniformed Officer with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, our uniforms, once made in Canada, started being being outsourced to China and were of poor quality. This made the front page news in some communities when it was learned our provincial flags were also made in China. I recognize that we live in a global economy and I have no problem purchasing something made in another country – but only when there are no violations of labour and/or human rights. Although it took two years, I was able to negotiate an ethical procurement clause for all future uniform clothing bids that would consider a triple bottom line of cost, environmental/ecological impact and social impacts and would require the submitting body to confirm the manufacturer had been investigated to ensure there were violations of labour and/or human rights on record.
Featured panelists included:
Alissa Lentz, Founder, HERO NEW YORK
Jia Wertz, Founder, Studio15
Suuchi Ramesh, Founder, SUUCHI Inc
Kate Black, Founder, Magnifeco + EcoSessions®
Tammy Tibbetts, Founder, She's The First
Blair Imani, Founder, Equality for HER; Black American Muslim Activist
Gunjan Goel, Founder + President, The Global Business Chamber of Commerce
Emily Santos, Sr. Retail Consultant, iSoftStone; 2017 Fellow,New Leaders Council