Pants to Poverty

Posted by editor 19/09/2012 0 Comment 3444 views
Pants to Poverty. Photo: Ness Sherry

Pants to Poverty. Photo: Ness Sherry

Cotton has become one of the most common fabrics in clothing today and it’s certainly a popular choice for our underwear. The thing is, most cotton production is riddled with issues such as heavy pesticide use and seriously unfair trade. So back in 2005 during the Make Poverty History campaign, a new pair of pants came to town with a 100% ethical supply chain from cotton to bottom.

Pants To Poverty is the brain child of Ben Ramsden who put his campaigning background and desire to rid the world of bad pants together to create and grow the brand. The whole principle behind Pants to Poverty is that they are not just buying fabric and underwear from factories and selling them, but they are building a value chain community.

In a normal situation a brand would sell through an agent, and play factories off against each other for the best price so that they have to outsource, cut corners and reduce living wages in order to meet the desired price. In order to do this they might mix GM (genetically modified) fiber with non-GM fiber in the spinning factory in order to make a cheaper and lesser quality fabric, which can then be sold for less. GM cotton uses harmful pesticides which can cause health risks for the farmers, yet it has risen from 0% to 92% in India over the past eight years.

Pants to Poverty. Photo: Ness Sherry

The common story for Indian cotton farmers is one of suicide. Traders visit the farmers and tell them they need to farm more efficiently and then give them pesticides for free which they must pay the debt of after the end of the season. In many cases in order to pay this back the first year they lose their crop, and then the second year they lose their land. This leads them to suicide by drinking the very pesticides that they bought in the first place. It’s an enormous problem with 7 suicides a day for the last 15 years in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.

So what ‘Pants’ do is have complete transparency, working directly with the farmer group Chatna and their garment factory. Chatna work with twelve and a half thousand farmers. They give a lot of trade and support to the farmers and as a result have no suicides, guarantee their farmers a fair price and the farmers democratically own the company that they work for as it is a co-operative.

“It’s about breaking down the whole chain and quantifying social and environmental value whilst creating profit.” says Ramsden. And this is certainly what they are doing as they now sell their pants through more than 200 shops in over 20 countries. Of course, it’s only the Brits that understand the meaning of the name ‘Pants To Poverty’ ie. Poverty sucks, but still the allure of the bright colours and organic and fairtrade cotton are making the pants a hit worldwide. They have created a product that is not just quality but 10% cheaper than one of its main competitors, Calvin Klein, making Pants To Poverty the perfect ethically sexy underwear.

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