Leggings. We love to wear them. We find ways to hate them. We can never seem to find a pair that provides full coverage and that don’t fall down (you know I’m right). Needless to say, we could all use a pair of quality leggings. When my last pair of athleisure-stretchy-goodness wore out almost a year ago, I decided I would do without these “wardrobe staples” for a few seasons. My attempt? I went running in shorts, hiking in jeans, and did Pilates in my pajamas. While I made this work for a season, I was terribly uncomfortable in nearly all my legging-less activities.
When it came time to finally invest in a new, ethical pair of leggings, I was surprised to find endless options online. Definitely not a bad problem to have, but also not a situation I often encounter while shopping ethically. What to do with a vast selection and no in-store options to try on first? Read reviews! I read several blog posts, researched an array of websites, and simply examined the fit of leggings in photographs. I wanted a thicker legging, without awkward seams, a high waistline that wouldn’t budge, and a pocket somewhere for whatever I might want to bring along on workouts. Of course, they needed to be made ethically. Is that too much to ask!?
Apparently not. Enter ShareHope: an ethical athletic brand making some damn good leggings while simultaneously creating job security for garment workers in Haiti. When ShareHope first decided to partner with Haitian garment factories for their production, they noticed significant needs such as insufficient employment, lack of education, limited access to knowledge about health or clinics, and minimal support for the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.
Rather than simply providing stable employment, safe working conditions, and fair wages, ShareHope saw an opportunity to help individuals thrive. ShareHope is a registered non-profit, which allows them to put 100% of their profits toward social programs that meet the deeper needs of their garment workers. Seeing as business in the garment industry can be quite unpredictable, ShareHope relies on additional donations to “ensure the workers continue to have access to programs that continually improve and address their needs.”
Overview of Social Programs
Herhealth: a health education program that provides modules on health topics such as personal hygiene, nutrition, waterborne diseases, HIV/AIDS, family planning, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and waste management. This health training program is coordinated with factory management so workers can take part in the modules during the workday. The model of this program is peer-to-peer training, ushering health education out into the community, as well.
Factory Clinic Improvement: this program is working to improve the overall practices in factory clinics, making them more efficient and effective. More specifically, this program aims to establish standard operating procedures, train nurses, raise owner awareness on the clinic practices and trends within their factory and the sector, and collects data on worker health.
High School Completion: this program currently allows approximately 40 students per year to attend education classes after their normal work day is complete. These evening classes prepare students to take the national high-school leaving exam. In a nation where 99% of the population never completes high school, this program is making deep impact.
Support for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workers: when I volunteered in Vietnam several years ago, I learned that the deaf and hard-of-hearing population was outcast from the rest of society. I can only imagine the opportunities for deaf garment workers in Haiti are just as grim. This program provides equal access to deaf and hard-of-hearing workers through providing interpreted health trainings, custom hearing devices coupled with a speech pathology treatment program, and communication classes that focus on literacy and sign-language expansion.
Beyond their work to uplift garment workers in Haiti through social programs, ShareHope is on a mission to empower factories as well. ShareHope commits to a long term relationship with the factories they choose to partner with, paying premium prices for assembly in expectation that these factories will increase workers wages over time. Occassionally, we see factories as the bad guys in ethical production, neglecting the fact that factory management may also be struggling or lack guidance and innovation to uphold higher standards. “We help the factory evaluate their Better Work Assessments, and where there are non-compliances, we help them to come into compliance.”
I especially value ShareHope’s initiative to work with existing factories that are initially non-compliant. I think this is an interesting niche that we as ethical consumers cannot ignore. Of course, starting new factories that are “doing things right” from the get-go is best, but what if ethical brands also helped empower and correct existing factories that are not using fair labor practices?
Any Red Flags?
Whenever I review a company, I always try and be as holistic as possible. Even if they are doing many practices well, not every ethical brand will be perfect. The main areas of growth I see for ShareHope would be their fabric selection and sourcing.
Though extremely comfortable, thick, and durable, the leggings are made from 88% nylon and 12% spandex. Synthetic fabrics like these do not break down once a garment has been “worn out” and can be damaging to the environment. As a performance fabric, they are fantastic, just not exactly sustainable in the long term.
Next, I was a little concerned about ShareHope sourcing their fabrics from factories in China. There are currently an array of ethical brands producing garments ethically in China, yet this country has grown a reputation for using sweatshop labor. After reading about ShareHope’s empowering relationship with Haitian factories, I have significant hope that their relationship with Chinese textile factories is just as intentional (and transformative!)
If you’ve been seeking a pair of ethically made leggings that feel like Lululemon’s and are crafted with a whole lot more integrity, I encourage you to check out ShareHope. Paying fair wages, ensuring safe working conditions, providing social programs that meet the requested needs of Haitian garment workers, and empowering existing Haitian factories to thrive under ethical compliance? Well, I think this is easily a brand to keep your eyes on!
Note: This post was not sponsored by ShareHope. All thoughts and opinions are my own.