What’s a “Good Buy?”

According to the latest statistics released by the American Apparel & Footwear Association: In 2020, on average, every man, woman, and child in the United States spent $1,067.93 to buy 51.8 pieces of clothes and 5.8 pairs of shoes. Normally, those numbers are higher, but the COVID-19 pandemic reduced them.

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis reminds us: “Purchasing is always a moral – and not simply economic – act” (#206).

We have five times more clothing today than 40 years ago. We prize bigger, walk-in closets to accommodate our clothes. Clothing purchased this year will have seven uses on average before being discarded by the purchaser.

That’s a lot of clothing with a hefty impact on carbon emissions and the climate crisis. That’s a lot of stuff sitting in people’s closets. That’s a lot of that ends up in landfills.

Our overflowing landfills aren’t the only obvious signs of a “throwaway culture.” The purchase of discardable clothing lends itself to thinking of the workers as disposable as well.

The old notion of a “good buy” is that it is cheap and makes you look thin. A renewed notion: a “good buy” has ethical content. How was it sourced? How does it care for creation? How were the workers treated in the making of this garment? Were they paid a living wage?


In April 2021, 200 ICCR members and affiliates signed the ICCR Investor Statement Calling for Renewal of Bangladesh Accord, a month before the agreement was set to expire. A brief extension of the Accord secured protections for worker rights and remedy solutions for 2 million workers at 600 factories through August 31st. We are delighted that the Accord has been renewed and expanded for two years as the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry. This new Accord takes effect on September 1, one day after the current Bangladesh Accord is set to expire. Like its predecessor agreement, the new International Accord is a legally binding agreement between companies and trade unions that aims to make ready-made garments (RMG) and textile factories safe. True to its new title, the new Accord aims to expand these safety standards and worker to other countries and labor markets using the Bangladesh Accord model.

A list of signatories to the International Accord is available here. While it includes American labels like Fanatics and PVH (owner of Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Warner’s, Olga and True & Co., and licenses brands such as Kenneth Cole New York and Michael Kors), we are disappointed that U.S. companies like Costco, the Gap, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Target, TJX (owner of TJ Maxx and Marshalls), and Walmart are not yet signatories. This roster of American non-signatories aligns with those who refused to join the Accord in 2013, opting to create the now defunct Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety instead. Given that a fire swept through a garment factory, killing 17 people in Pakistan on Friday (8/27), worker safety remains an urgent concern and requires multilateral action. To sit on the sidelines is irresponsible.

Connecting the first section of this post with the second, I’d suggest that, while we, as consumers, can “buy better,” the Accord, a legally binding, multi-stakeholder agreement, advances commitments to worker safety in ways that corporate “codes of conduct” and audits cannot. If a company hasn’t signed it, the onus is on them to demonstrate that they are doing something better.

Please see the New York Times and Reuters articles for more background on the new Accord.

FSPA begins compensation project as it joins the Fight for $15

By Sister Sue Ernster, Vice President & Treasurer/CFO, FSPA


In appreciation of our valued partners in mission and in support of the actions of ICCR, SGI and Raise the Wage Act of 2021, FSPA has partnered with Wipfli consultants to begin a compensation project that will ultimately raise our organization’s minimum wage to $15 in 2021. 

According to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) Leadership Team, “This isn’t just about economic justice. We recognize our partners in mission serving on staff are gold. We’re advocating for livable wages and we want it to start at home. We’re investing in our partners as they help us carry forward our mission.” The FSPA Merged HR Team note that all wages are evaluated annually, which will continue after the new minimum wage is in place.

FSPA stands with ICCR calling on the federal government to “implement a mandatory minimum wage of at least $15 per hour as a floor, with an eye towards establishing a living wage standard.” ICCR’s 300-plus faith and values-based institutional investors view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. In addition, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Region 9, of which FSPA is a part of, is also advocating for living wages. This is in line with Pope Francis’ Easter message of solidarity with movements that support workers’ dignity through changing economic structures, including consideration of a universal basic wage.  

As our compensation project and advocacy for a living wage intersects with our commitment to unveil our white privilege. Throughout 2021, guided by our Dismantling FSPA Racism Team, we will work to raise awareness of our participation in systemic racism, analyze our congregation’s anti-racist vision and act authentically for racial equity.

FSPA recently took the lead in advocating for racial and economic justice by filing a shareholder resolution (see our exempt solicitation) with Walmart, calling for a higher starting wage — intersecting our compensation project and advocacy with our 2018 commitment to unveil white privilege. Walmart’s low starting wages are not aligned with the its professed values of respect for the individual and promoting healthy communities or its commitment to sustainability. Boosting wages for the lowest paid employees, which are disproportionately people of color, would advance Walmart’s stated commitment to racial justice. Remedying systemic racism provides everyone with tangible benefits. Wages are the most important element of employee compensation, according to Walmart Associates, and the negative effects of lower wages undermine their ability to serve the customer.

Our community is also growing our impact investing. Our 2020 Seeding a Legacy of Healing initiative will usher in a second round of seeding grants including the Apis & Heritage Capital Partners, whose mission  is to attack the racial wealth gap to restore dignity and status to the American Worker. A second investment in the Religious Communities Impact Fund will benefit the economically poor, especially women and children, concentrating on those who are unserved or poorly served through traditional financial sources.

As Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), “The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies” (#203). The dignity of each person can be recognized through fair wages.

Why you should be concerned about the 2018 Farm Bill

by Frank Sherman

Why should people of faith and socially responsible investors pay attention to this year’s Farm Bill? What may appear to be an innocent funding bill turns out to have a major impact on things we care about.

The Farm Bill is renewed every five years. It was initially conceived during the Great Depression to provide fair prices for both consumers and farmers, as well as access to quality food and protection for natural resources. In 1965, funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) was combined with the support for commodity prices into a single omnibus bill because neither bill was able to pass on its own. Food stamps now make up almost 80% of the Farm Bills’ funding helping over 45 million Americans.

In a recent article in The New Republic  (The Farm Bill Is Everything That’s Wrong With Congress), Alex Shephard argues that the 2018 Farm Bill has little to do with farms or farmers. Most of the debate revolves instead around a host of other issues, like the deep cuts and “work requirements” for the food stamp program and draconian immigration reforms. The House version of the 2018 Farm Bill, which passed by a narrow margin in June, includes harmful and unnecessary barriers to access, like burdensome work requirements. On the other hand, the U.S. Senate version protects SNAP and includes pilot programs to connect SNAP recipients to work through effective employment and training programs. It is now up to a Conference Committee to work out the differences.

In 1965, funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) was combined with the support for commodity prices into a single omnibus bill because neither bill was able to pass on its own. With food stamps now helping over 45 million Americans, making up almost 80% of the Farm Bill’s funding, this situation has grown only more dire under this polarized Congress. The House version of the 2018 Farm Bill, which passed by a narrow margin in June, includes harmful and unnecessary barriers to access, like burdensome work requirements. On the other hand, the U.S. Senate version protects SNAP and includes pilot programs to connect SNAP recipients to work through effective employment and training programs. It is now up to a Conference Committee to work out the differences.

The premise of the additional work requirements (there are already work requirements in the current SNAP program) in the House Bill — that somehow people who use SNAP are lazy — is fundamentally wrong. Most adults on SNAP work and nearly 70% of SNAP participants are in families with children. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SNAP provides a nutritionally adequate diet to 1 in 3 children (here)! Research shows children who benefit from SNAP are likelier to have better health and educational outcomes as adults. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center report that a majority of registered voters oppose recent efforts to scale back SNAP food benefits and believe the government should be doing more to meet the needs of people facing food insecurity. However, pressure from the White House to pass the House version and the midterm elections to will make it difficult for GOP Senators to preserve their bipartisan bill.

Okay, so the Farm Bill is critical to the working poor. But what does it have to do with corporations that are not directly involved in food industry? Because SNAP supports millions of low wage workers working for Walmart, McDonald’s, Amazon and many others. 30% of Americans are working in jobs that barely lift a family above the poverty line, even if they were working full-time, year-round. SNAP also supports children who are their future employees! Research shows children who benefit from SNAP are likelier to have better health and educational outcomes as adults.

So what can you do about this? There has been a lot of support of the SNAP program from faith based groups (see Food Research & Action Center overview here). ICCR had a recent webinar where several faith groups and NGO’s described this urgent issue (recording here). The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition website (here) provides a wealth of information on the farm bill process and actions you can take.

This may be crowded out of the headlines, but it is vitally important to us.