Steve Trent explains why printers with high social and environmental credentials score top marks with the Environmental Justice Foundation

In June 2017, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) launched a collection of T-shirts to support its Ocean’s Campaign, which works to combat illegal and unsustainable fishing, stamp out human rights abuses driven by these activities and protect the coastal communities and wildlife that depend on the planet’s oceans.

The T-shirt collection was designed by Eley Kishimoto, The Rodnik Band, John Rocha and Margot Bowman, and the process used to print the designs was carefully considered, explains EJF’s executive director Steve Trent. “For EJF it is very important that our T-shirts carry a positive message while also not having a negative impact. For our printing process, we worked with Shirtworks based in Oxford, UK, who helped us ensure the highest social and environmental credentials possible. The T-shirts were screen printed and use Soil Association-accredited inks.”

All of the T-shirts are from Continental Clothing’s EarthPositive range. “It is hugely important for EJF that our T-shirts are organic,” explains Steve. “The idea of Just For [EJF’s fund-raising merch shop] grew out of EJF’s Cotton Campaign which saw us investigate and combat the environmental and social impacts of cotton production. This included exposing the use of child labour in Uzbekistan and around the world, and unsustainable production and processing practices – such as irrigation for crops and the use of toxic chemicals – which have led to overexploitation of natural resources and devastating environmental abuses.

“By selling beautifully designed T-shirts that are 100% organic and fairly traded, we are able to show that there is a positive, affordable alternative to these practices. With EJF also running a strong Climate Campaign we also use T-shirts with a limited carbon footprint. The Continental Clothing EarthPositive line also helps us do this with an EJF T-shirt having just 10% of the carbon emissions of a conventional, non-organic cotton T-shirt on the high-street.”

The T-shirt collections have two main objectives for the charity: to raise funds (Just For has raised £500,000 since it was started in 2006), and also to raise awareness. “Over the years we’ve had T-shirts worn by celebrities – Gillian Anderson, Olivia Colman – and models – including Lily Cole and David Gandy – and featured in major fashion magazines and at events such as London Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week, all working to shine a spotlight on the issues EJF works on.

“When you look at issues such as slave and child labour, or huge environmental challenges such as the exploitation of our oceans and climate change, it is so easy for people to feel helpless and not know where they can start in terms of having a personal impact. While buying an EJF T-shirt is a relatively small step someone can take, for us it is about beginning that conversation and journey towards understanding the role that each and every one of us can play by using our personal choices in a positive way. We, as consumers, have a huge amount of power but we don’t often realise, or utilise, it. By making the right choices, and asking the right questions, we can help shift the conversation and really have impact.”

For other decorators who want to work for charities such as EJF, having the right environmental and social credentials is important: Shirtworks not only uses Soil Association-accredited inks, but is a member of bodies such as the Living Wage Foundation. Steve continues: “Ensuring our T-shirts are able to be a positive message without having a negative impact is very important to us and is the number one factor when we are looking for companies to work with, so our advice to any printer or embroiderer wanting to work with an organisation such as EJF would be to invest in limiting your impact.”