“Are My Hands Clean?” Fair Trade Activity

Written by Derek Duncan, Global Ministries Associate for Global Advocacy and Education

13954890938_9e9c83eb6e_b.jpgWhether we mean to or not, when we purchase goods and services we support the businesses that produce, deliver, and sell them.  As a consumer our choices directly or indirectly sustain the industries and practices that go into making the products we buy. Wrapped up in every product are the materials used in manufacturing the goods, the energy inputs and environmental impacts of producing and transporting the goods, and the human labor used in making, packaging, and bringing products to market. We may not know the whole source map, supply-chain history, or all the labor and environmental practices for the companies and industries we support through our pocket-book, but in many cases we can find out if we look beyond the label.

  1. Choose a partner and take turns looking at the label at the back of each other’s shirt collar.  Where was the garment made?  Where did you/they purchase that article of clothing?

  2. Imagine the distance the shirt (or other clothing article) took to get from the garment factory to the store where you lived.
    • Share examples of major manufacturing countries, clothing manufacturers/exporters and importers/retailers.  Share typical distances these manufactured goods travel.

  3. How many steps can we identify in the process of making your shirt, such as collecting raw materials, manufacturing, shipping and selling these goods? How many hands go into making your shirt before you handle it?
    • If you can, play recording of Sweet Honey in the Rock song “Are My Hands Clean?” (This YouTube video of the song includes helpful images.)

  4. What are some of the “costs” to making your shirt besides what’s on the price-tag?  Can we identify some of the impacts on the environment and on people that we should consider as we strive to make ethical choices as consumers? Who are the winners and losers in the process of making a shirt? How do concepts like transparency and accountability help address human rights or environmental abuses?
    • Share stories you may have seen about sweatshops and factory conditions, trafficking of child-laborers, abuses in diamond and other mining operations, environmental impact of bottled water, industrial food, carbon fuels, etc.  View clips from Gold Fever or another film that illustrate how profits often are placed before people.

  5. As consumers, are we accountable for the unseen supply-chain that goes into our clothes, our fuel, or our food?  Are there faith issues at stake here?  What should we all know and do as mindful, faithful consumers? How can we contribute to greater environmental sustainability, just labor and manufacturing practices, and fair trade?
    • Share value of global partnership connections.