It is not just what you wear you need to question

It is what you sit on, eat off, sleep in, have over you when you are sleeping, drink from, walk on, store in…Yes, interior-design is another dimension of the ethical question.

Visit goodweave and read the Q&A below

Samantha Towle, Executive Director of GoodWeave (UK) was recently invited by the leading interior design magazine idfx to vent her exasperation at the seeming lack of concern and knowledge about ethical sourcing amongst interior designers.  The article appeared in the February 2012 issue and the full article can be found on-line.

Here are a few excerpts:

“Do interior designers and architects enquire about or pay any attention to the manufacturing methods of the paints, wallpapers, lighting or rugs they specify, and if they don’t, is it right for the manufacturers to carry on ignoring the social and environmental harm caused, because they think their customer base isn’t interested?

Some of the examples are shocking: the luxury rugs hand-woven by children with “nimble fingers”, aged eight, working sixteen hours or more a day, poorly fed, ill and uneducated; the prestigious brand of wallpaper that is made from selected pulp from Germany, shipped to Thailand where a petrochemically sourced nylon thread is woven through,  rendering the wallpaper unrecyclable, then shipped to Mumbai, where solvent dyes are applied, before being shipped back to the UK for further international distribution, or the tragedy of mercury poisoned Chinese workers paying the price for producing “eco” compact fluorescent light bulbs in cost-cutting factories.”

“So what’s the reason for the seemingly staggering levels of ignorance and apathy in the interiors sector?  Is it because the media hasn’t done a number and exposed the sector as yet? ….”

“Or, is it because most interior designers presume that if their clients don’t ask questions, then they don’t care – this has to be wrong.  Just because your affluent client doesn’t ask you whether their beautiful new rug has been made by a starving eight year old, doesn’t mean to say that they don’t care – clients probably think that as they are paying a professional designer for their services, it is the designer’s responsibility to avoid dragging them into child exploitation.”

“Or, is it just because interior designers aren’t asking their suppliers questions about how their products are manufactured, letting the suppliers off the hook?”

“I’d like to promote the idea that interior designers have the power and influence to change this industry.  For a start, as well as asking clients about design and budget, talk about supply chain issues – present clients with some choices and help them to understand their options and the implications.  Secondly, start to ask questions such as whether a rug is GoodWeave certified and then make purchasing decisions accordingly. Thirdly, please challenge wishy-washy answers provided by some designers and suppliers.

For example, in the rug industry, I often hear the following: “We’ve been dealing with the same family company in India for years and they would never employ children,” or “my supplier sponsors a lovely school for girls in the carpet belt – I’ve seen photos of it.”  These assertions may be true, but the sad facts are as follows: most child labour is hidden in subcontractor factories or in remote rural villages which the owner of the business may never have visited.  He won’t deliberately employ children, but it is often the case that rugs are woven via a series of agents who are not always as scrupulous.  As for sponsoring the school, that’s a wonderful charitable act, but it’s not going to prevent illegal, child labour.”

When will the interiors sector clean up its act and wake up to its responsibilities?

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One thought on “It is not just what you wear you need to question

  1. Pingback: It is not just what you wear you need to question | shedreamsingreenblog

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