By Tara Dermott, IOM X Program Leader
Consider this: there are currently 16.5 million people trapped in situations of forced labour in the Asia Pacific. Many of these are being exploited in the manufacturing industry. It’s a staggering statistic, and one that surprises many people I talk to.
Consumers tend to feel far removed from this fact. We don’t see the people who work long hours every day to produce clothes, assemble electronics, package food, or make shoes.
This year, Fashion Revolution Week (23-27 April 2018) marks five years since the collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Tragically, 1,134 garment workers, working in unimaginably difficult conditions, lost their lives when a five-storey commercial building collapsed.
How can we encourage consumers to be more socially aware in their purchases? IOM X visited Thammasat University on the outskirts of Bangkok to brainstorm ways that strategic communication could be used to increase socially responsible consumerism here in Thailand.
Together, 30 students from the Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication, came up with six concepts for campaigns in just 30 minutes!
The Science of Being Socially Responsible
Focused on workers made to work with chemicals and other unsafe materials, this campaign would leverage science fairs in schools and public places to create opportunities for youth and their families to learn more about safety and how they can support the safety of workers. A game for mobile would also be developed as a fun and engaging way for youth to learn more about this important issue.
Who Made my Shoes?
Imagine going into your favourite athletic footwear store and selecting a pair of sneakers to try on. This campaign concept is that when you receive the box there is a photo and story of the worker who made your shoe. In this way, the footwear brand can demonstrate that good products are made by happy and willing workers. Furthermore, a percentage of the profit from this line would go towards organizations that support workers.
This advocacy campaign would encourage consumers to call upon their favourite companies to Know the Chain, encouraging transparency and action to rid supply chains of slavery. The concept is to have one short video that rewinds from the moment a consumer purchases a product back through all of the workers who were involved in the production from raw materials to manufacturing. Once this video has grabbed your attention, you can then tune in to watch a longer documentary program to learn more about the current state of supply chains of your favourite products.
Shake the Tag
Inspired by the Cruelty Free tag movement of makeup products that don’t test on animals, this campaign would promote Sweatshop Free products. Engaging influencers, such as fashion bloggers, would help to spread the word and credibility to this campaign.
Leveraging the power of media and the power of movement, this campaign would call out brands that have documented instances of exploitation in their supply chains. It would also encourage consumers to exercise their right of choice to protect the human rights of workers. This strong campaign concept has clear links to the ongoing Clean Clothes Campaign telling brands to take responsibility for their workers.
Regardless of how we learn about and engage with this issue, we need to remember that as consumers, our purchasing habits have an impact and the more we know about the people behind the products we buy, the better informed our decisions will be.
Thanks again to the brilliant students of MC309 Media Centre at Thammasat University!