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A teachable moment on product sourcing

vastleft's picture

I've recently begun selling political T-shirts (the 2L4O shirts advertised in the right margin), and I was chagrined to find that the first batch of shirts was made in Haiti by a company with a questionable record for working conditions.

I'm working with my vendor to ensure that future orders are union-made. Even before the first shirts I'd ordered arrived from the printer, some potential customers had suggested I go that route, and that they'd happily pay a little extra to support decent working conditions.

Since I can't unmake the first batch, and I didn't specify the company/country of manufacture (live and learn!), I'm planning to donate a portion of the proceeds from these goods to a charity that provides targeted relief to the sort of folks who get screwed by sweatshop labor conditions.

Personally, I've donated to Doctors Without Borders, to aid in Haitian relief, but I'm wondering if there's a more appropriate charity for this.

Though I doubt I'll ever come near passing a purity test for thoughtful product purchases, this is a teachable moment about paying attention to the sourcing of what we buy. If there's lemonade to be made here, I look forward to sharing it with a worthy and appropriate charity. Suggestions?

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sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

Not only for their work in Haiti, so timely now, but for all their other unsung work around the globe! And, for a site devoted to healthcare, what could be more appropriate? I donate to them frequently.

TreeHugger's picture
Submitted by TreeHugger on

having shirts screen printed with my designs in 2 different cities for anti war fund raising. Both in 2001 and 2003 it was not difficult to get bids from local printers. Many are so small that the owners and employees are sometimes one and the same.

The cost of shirts primarily depends on the number of shirts printed per run, the number of colors in the design, and the quality of the fabric to be printed on. I had never done this before, but it was fairly straightforward.

I chose to donate the printing cost as my antiwar contribution and sold the shirts at prices ranging from $16 to $21. After doing a great deal of research, I chose Medicins sans Frontiers and IRC, the International Rescue Committee, as recipients for my fundraising efforts.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

... assorted tchotchkes.

The new shirt-wrinkle for me is ensuring that the shirts are union/American-made. There are additional costs and logistics challenges because most people buy the cheapest shirts they can that meet their basic spec (e.g. 100% cotton).

We're working it out. I'm not sure yet how much the price will increase, but both I and the purchases will feel better knowing we're not supporting exploitative working conditions.

The "American-made" part is something I feel less committed to. I don't think I'd want to see a boycott on all Haitian-made, etc., goods; knowing things were made in humane conditions is for me the key. If there were a manufacturer of goods made in poor countries but in reliably respectable conditions, I wouldn't be jingoistic about it.