Listen Up! How can we enact change?

Listen Up! How can we enact change?

Now, is it just us, or did anyone else feel positively turbo-charged by this week’s Listen Up!? Chris and Lucy were lucky enough to be joined by petition proficient and government guru Heather Lafferty, Policy Researcher at Fashion Roundtable. This time, we took a deeper dive into some of the positive actions we can take as individuals to dismantle the fashion industry’s seedy underbelly; telling brands and government what we want (meaningful change!) and when we want it (like, yesterday!)

Fashion Roundtable, founded by Tamara Cincik in 2017, is an independent organisation comprised of experts in fashion, sustainability, government policy, and circular fashion — to name but a few! — and work closely with Parliament to raise awareness, change conversations, and inspire the potential for new policies via their All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).

This APPG brings together cross-party peers from the House of Lords to discuss topics primarily impacting the fashion industry within the UK. All MPs within the APPG add a wealth of value to the discussion, focusing on issues such as representation, modern slavery, and the environment. Pretty impressive, right? We’d sure say so; prior to Fashion Roundtable’s establishment in 2017, the fashion industry didn’t even have a voice in Parliament, which is kinda shocking considering that the fashion industry is the second-biggest polluter after the oil industry. In fact, before Fashion Roundtable was established, the fashion industry hadn’t been spoken about in the House of Commons for three years. Woof! As a testament to how far we’ve come since then, we’re happy to hear that fashion is spoken more about in Parliament now than it ever has been!

It’s definitely a great thing that our government are opening their minds, mouths, and notebooks to some of these issues, but is this enough? If your immediate reaction is “heck no!”, then don’t you worry, cos your new pal Heather’s got you covered.

Let’s be clear: at no point have we ever thought that it should be the responsibility of you, the consumer, to try and bring about radical change.

So, who can make the most impact? Revolutionising policy and law has to come from our government, but how do we reach out to these super busy, super high-profile people? Firstly, we’d recommend that you bear a very simple, yet very powerful point in mind: Members of Parliament work for us, the Great British public. We place them in positions of power on the promise that they will make the world a better place to live, and if they’re not upholding their end of the bargain, we have every right to call it out.

If you don’t know who your local MP is head over to Parliament’s Find Your MP page and simply input your postcode to find out who represents your constituency. You will also be given a list of ways to get in contact, either by email, snail mail, or social media. It can be daunting knowing how to reach out or interact with MPs, but remember, they’re ordinary people just us!

How to write to your MP

  • Heather recommends that you imagine you’re emailing a colleague at work: keep it professional, but not overly formal.
  • Make sure to pop your address at the top of your letter or email, so that your MP knows that you’re part of their constituency and therefore knows they can help you — MPs are also more likely to respond to correspondence sent to their constituency office rather than to Parliament.
  • In terms of content, while it’s tempting to copy and paste one of those fabulous online templates that you often see doing the rounds, Heather says it’s much better to write something short, sweet, and from the heart, that addresses your query or concern directly: “MPs have a small team of people working for them, and it’s not often that MP directly responding to you. If Parliamentary assistants have seen the same template 50 times in an hour, their response will more than likely be copy-and-paste in kind.”

    Keep it simple, and keep it formulaic:
    “Hi _______,

    How are you? I have concerns about _______, are you aware of this / are you currently working on this / what are you going to do to fix this?

    Best,
    _______”

  • If you don’t get a response in a couple of weeks, chase them. Send another email or letter to follow up, and ask how long you can expect to receive your response. Be persistent, but reasonable; strive to get your response, but remember that delays can be rife especially in these COVID-impacted times.

What else can you do?

Okay, so we’ve written a banging letter to our local MP, but how can we reach out to brands? We’d recommend heading over to a brand’s website and checking out their Help and Contact section(s) in order to be directed to Customer Services, or the correct department for making general enquiries.

But what on earth do we say? Luckily, Heather had some great suggestions for us:

  • Ask if they’re intending to sign the Transparency Pledge as an initial first step
  • Ask what they’re doing to combat modern slavery in the garment industry
  • Enquire for more information about their supply chain; where is it? How many people does it employ? How often do they visit their suppliers to ensure that working conditions are safe, and workers are treated with respect?

Beyond that, we urge you to keep the conversation alive; keep sharing articles and infographics, keep talking to friends, family, and colleagues, and expand your knowledge by finding some new individuals and organisations to follow (more on that below!)

Fashion Roundtable have put together their very own survey: Cleaning Up Fashion, which seeks to address accelerating sustainability and supply chain transparency in the fashion industry. If you can spare a couple of minutes to fill it in, you'd be helping them make strides in changing the industry for the better! 

We’re dreaming of the day that we can celebrate impactful, industry-changing legislation, but right now that day feels very far away indeed. Until that day, we urge you to keep moving, keep fighting, and listen up!

Resources
Social
@entrylevelactivist 
— “Helping you make the language of activism more relatable and less overwhelming”
@celinecelines — executive director of @theslowfactory, a foundation that works to bring light to the environmental and social impact of fashion, championing social justice and climate positive solutions.
@sasibai.kimis — coordinator of Fashion Revolution Malaysia, she believes in total transparency and traceability in the garment manufacture supply chains.
@venetialamanna — broadcaster and slow fashion campaigner
@rememberwhomadethem — bringing together activists with networks in climate activism, the arts and sustainable fashion, spotlighting the situations and demands of garment workers groups.
@laurafrancois_ — has worked with global start-ups, non-profit organisations and governments, to champion and maximise sustainability.
@consciousnchic — dedicated to causes such as women’s issues and labour trafficking, interspersed with tips for living a more conscious and sustainable lifestyle.
@mrspress — author of Wardrobe Crisis and Rise and Resist, Clare Press illustrates how your love of fashion, and living a life that is socially and environmentally responsible, don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Podcasts
The Wardrobe Crisis
The Ethical Fashion Podcast
Sincerely, Hueman
Fashion Revolution

Further Reading
Find your local MP
How to Write an Email Letter to a Fashion Brand If You’re Seeking More Transparency
Activist Resources — Global Justice Now
Fashion Roundtable
Clean Clothes Campaign
Labour Behind the Label: Become an Activist
Fashion Revolution
Vegan Fashion Week
The Balenciaga Winter 2020 Show Takes Place on a Flooded Runway
Rise & Resist: How to Change the World — Clare Press
Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion — Clare Press