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Friday, March 09, 2007
Fair Trade Accountability

Poverty is a systemic issue. As Christians, I believe we need to practice mercy and justice on a personal and social scale. For those interested in Fair Trade as an avenue of action, below is the e-dialogue I had with a representative of Fair Indigo -- a supposedly fair trade clothing company started by some Lands End people, which is suspiciously vague about the location and specifics about their factories, wages and producers. I would encourage anyone interested to feel free to copy and paste my email (edit as desired) and put some pressure on this potentially fair trade company to make their practices public. Their website is www.fairindigo.com

Hi there,

My names is Jemila and I am an advocate and supporter of fair trade. I would like to buy from Fair Indigo, but I am concerned that your website doesn't give specific locations and names of factories, owners and workers involved in the production of your clothing. Can you provide me with this information and provide a place on your site where it can be publically accessed? This is seems to me a very reasonable accountability measure in lieu of current third party certification for clothing items.

Thank you very much!
Jemila Monroe

Hello Jemila,

Thanks so much for your email. We’re delighted you share our passion for fair trade. We appreciate your desire to learn more about the factories and workers making our products but we do not plan to share this information at this time. Finding fair trade factories was and continues to be challenging in today’s low-cost climate. In fact it took over a year to find the small group of facilities we’re partnered with today. We may publish this information in the future, but at this time will protect it as proprietary. Thanks again for your time and interest.


Ellen from Fair Indigo


I'm sure you're aware that certified fair trade groups such as Ten Thousand Villages publish their source info. I cannot in good conscience purchase from Fair Indigo again until that information is made public for the sake of accountability. Please let me know when Fair Indigo is prepared to make that knowledge accessible to the concerned public and potential customers. Thank you!


Hi Jemila,

We understand your position and will look forward to hearing from you again someday if and when we publish this information on our website.

Thank you again for your comments,



posted by Jemila Kwon at 5:27 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 3/09/2007 06:18:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    wow that's sad. I have discovered that when a company is doing something good - actually putting the resources into paying fair wages- they want people to know about it. The harder it is to discover source codes and the like, the higher the probibility that the company is on a human rights watch list. Not a given, just a high chance. Thank you for bringing this to our awareness. Reminds me of walmart being called out for labeling nonoraganic food as organic...

  • At 3/09/2007 06:33:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    Jemila, Thanks for sharing this travesty of a dialogue. Open slavery has been abolished supposedly, but as the comment pointed out, in a "low-cost environment" you can't sell fair trade goods because, good heavens, they're too expensive! Well, I bet cotton harvesting in the Southern U.S. got a lot more expensive after slaves were no longer available! This is what one might call "economic slavery" and it's much more insidious because the average ignorant American consumer [and there is no shortage of said individual] has no idea that the big bad Wal Marts are exploiting sweat shop kids in poor countries. Buying fair trade should be viewed as an opportunity to use mamon to be good to humanity.

  • At 3/09/2007 07:01:00 PM, Blogger Linda

    Jemila, I really appreciate you and Julie keeping us up on fair trade issues. In my naivete I would never think to check their sources. I guess I'll have to change my habits of trusting the people who declare themselves to be fair trade organizations.

  • At 3/12/2007 09:55:00 PM, Anonymous Steve

    Folks, don't pass judgment until you've gotten the whole story from primary sources.

  • At 3/13/2007 10:07:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Hi Steve,

    although when I contacted Fair Indigo I would have hoped the person responding to my query would have offered a simple version of "the whole story" rather than a vague and somewhat pat, 'sorry we're not revealing that info at this time," I did check out the link you posted and found it very interesting and helpful. I have followed up with Fair Indigo requesting some way of verifying the the factory names and other fair trade specifics have indeed been submited to Transfair and Fair Trade Federation, in lui of viewing that information directly via the website.

    Thanks for the link! :)

  • At 3/15/2007 01:01:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Here's the latest (and very encouraging) response I got from Fair Indigo)

    Hello Jemila,

    Thank you so much for your interest in Fair Trade! We fully plan to at some point publish the names of all of our suppliers…we have decided not to as of yet only because it took us over eighteen months to find the small group we have, and we are sensitive to other bigger companies coming in and launching a similar company while using all of our facilities that took us that long to find. We just want to get our company off the ground first.

    We did submit our supplier names to the Fair Trade Federation and you are welcome to contact them to verify that. They actually won’t release the names to you but they could definitely verify that they have them. Our application process is still pending with them as this often takes up to a year or more, a credit to their extremely stringent guidelines.

    Let me know if there is anything else I can answer for you at this time.

    Very Best,


  • At 3/24/2007 12:17:00 AM, Blogger Steve

    Jemila, I think we're in uncharted waters, with a company like Fair Indigo. I take the most hope from the answer to my question near the end, about whether or not they would reveal their info to a consumer who wanted to do their own follow-up. Bill said they would, and I would heartily endorse anyone who felt like calling his bluff. I haven't ruled out doing so myself, once I save up enough money to go back to Central America.

    In the meantime, as someone who has talked to these folks face-to-face more than once, I want to let you know that I was encouraged by what I heard. At this point, I feel OK taking them at their word until and unless I have a specific reason not to.


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