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6 steps TO RUN a great Sweatshop Free campaign

1. plan your sweatshop free campaign

Before starting any campaign it’s crucial to be clear about what you want to achieve, and how you want to achieve it. Pinning down your objectives from the offset is the key to success. This page should help you to think through how to plan your campaign. There are loads more ideas over on our resources page.

You might want to base your campaign on the four Sweatshop Free goals, or you might have additional or different demands that come with building coalitions with other groups at your university or college, or in your community. How many awareness raising events do you want to organise in the first term? How many petition signatures do you want to get? Do you want to set a goal for the number of creative stunts/actions you want to take? We are available to support you in this by setting up a Campaign Planning workshop, email sweatshopfree@peopleandplanet.org to book!

You might also want to come up with smaller objectives to lead to your bigger ones along the way. How many people do you want to have engaged in the campaign? There are some great campaign tools available on our website, and on Seeds for Change and Training for Change’s websites.

Research your institution

When you start your campaign, it’s important to get to grips with how your university or college works, who makes decisions and what policies they already have in place. Finding out the answers to these questions could help you to do that:

  • How much does your institution spend annually on electronics?

  • What companies supply your institution’s electronics?

  • Is your institution part of a Purchasing Consortium (and are they affiliated to Electronics Watch)?

  • Does it have a policy on procuring (buying) goods in a sustainable way?

  • Who in your institution is responsible for procurement (processing purchasing)?

  • Are students able to feed in to procurement decisions?

You’ll be able to find some of this out just by searching through your institution’s website or by asking staff members. Some of it, like your institution’s annual electronics spend and their supplier will be a lot harder to dig out.

For that information, you might need to submit a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which your institution is legally obliged to respond to. We have a template FOI request ready to go over on our resources page!

Get help drafting a freedom of information act request or get in touch for additional support

Create a campaign timeline

One of the most important things for a successful campaign is to keep up momentum and not try to do everything at once. Sit down with a calendar and figure out how you can keep up excitement over the year. Here are some dates you might want to base your campaign around:

Affiliation to Electronics Watch will give your university points in the People & Planet University League, provided they join before the annual 1st August deadline. Build pressure in the run up to the deadline!

2. Build a team and Start recruiting!

All good campaigns start with a strong team. Get together with your friends and remember to think outside the box about who to invite: a diversity of experiences and opinions often makes a group stronger. They can support you in gathering a group of people interested in working on this campaign together.

Arrange a meeting of your People & Planet group to talk about starting the Sweatshop Free campaign, or bring in a speaker and hold a public event followed by an open discussion. You should make this as accessible as possible, your SU should be able to help you with this or you can find more information in our Movement Building guide.

If you don’t have a People & Planet group, talk to your Students’ Union and other societies on campus. Feminist, Green, sustainability, Labour and anti-arms trade groups might all be interested in the issues. A first meeting is a great way to share ideas, plan for the future and build some momentum among your core supporters and activists.

3. Raise Awareness

People need to know about your campaign if they’re going to join it. Help them find out. This is all about reaching out to students and letting them know all about your campaign. Speak to people, get their support, and build alliances.

Students and staff will only act to change their university if they know that there’s a problem, and that they can be part of the solution. Expose the problem of human rights abuses in electronics supply chains and increase the call for your university to do its part to protect human rights.

Ideas for raising awareness

There are loads of different ways you can raise awareness and get people to hear about your ideas and your campaign. If you’re starting out the process of raising awareness, you could try some of the following:

  • Film screenings: There are a bunch of documentaries on workers rights and sweatshops. Why not host one to help raise awareness of the issue?
  • Speaker events: Is there an academic at your institution that researches global supply chains or workers rights? Invite them to give a talk!
  • Lecture shout outs: Give a quick 1 minute announcement at the start of lectures. You’ve got an engaged audience waiting to learn!
  • Leaflets and posters: Get your message out by plastering your campus with printed materials.
  • Knock on doors: If you have lots of students living in halls, go out and talk to them. Speaking to people directly is a great way to get them on board.
  • Run workshops: People & Planet can support your campaigns by coming to your institution and running workshops about Sweatshop Free or campaign skills.
  • Social media: Set up a Facebook and Twitter account to spread the word online.
  • Student media: Can you get an article published in your student newspaper? Can you get a slot on your campus TV or radio station too?
  • Stalls: Set up a stall in a busy area on your campus to distribute leaflets and talk to students.

If you want more ideas on ways you can raise awareness and start your campaign, get in touch at sweatshopfree@peopleandplanet.org

4. Take Action: Lobbying and Negotiating

A central element of many campaigns is lobbying and negotiating with decision makers. As the Sweatshop Free campaign has a clear change that we want members of university and college management to take, this is no different! Lobbying is typically an activity that is done in private between a campaign group and decision makers and is where you seek to persuade them to take a particular action.

7 steps to a good lobbying campaign

1. Identify Your Target.

Is this an academic, procurement manager or sustainability manager? Find out who has the power to make the decision, and the power to influence the decision maker. You might start by thinking one person is the target, only to learn that someone else holds the purse strings. Keep going, and adapt your targets according to information you find out along the way.

2. Get in touch in writing.

Always try and start lobbying by formally writing to your target, setting out clearly the issue that you are campaigning on, why it is important and what action you want them to take. Your letter should contain a request for a meeting. We can help you to draft a first email if you get in touch!

3. Make sure the meeting is on your terms.

People in positions of power are talented at derailing discussions on topics they don’t want to take action on. Outline clearly before the meeting what you will be discussing and what you want to get out of it. Find out as much as possible about them before you get in a room with them. Can you anticipate any questions? Are they already on your side? Where you don’t know the answers to technical questions, don’t sweat! Say that you will find out and get back to them in writing after the meeting. You can also connect them with People & Planet staff who can respond to them too.

4. Follow up any meeting you have in writing.

It’s easy for people to wriggle out of commitments if there is no record of them. Make sure that you e-mail your target immediately following the meeting with a concise overview of your discussion, any new information that you promised to provide and anything that was agreed.

5. Get a little help.

If you’re struggling to get a meeting, or your target is ignoring your correspondence, think about who your allies are that can help get your foot in the door. Speak to your SU officers, talk with academics you know, or with managers further down the University or college chain. You might need to get creative and escalate the campaign if they don’t respond. We can provide creative, strategic and campaigns escalation training.

6. Campaign outside of the meeting.

More often than not, private lobbying won’t be successful in meeting your objectives on its own – you’ll need to build a movement outside of the room. It’s the pressure from the weight of the campaign behind you that gives you sway and influence when meeting decision makers, more so than the strength of your argument. Get the student body mobilised.

7. Be careful with compromise.

When a campaign has the momentum and strength behind it to force the hand of management, they will usually offer you a compromise, falling short of your demands, but giving some ground. Think carefully about whether a compromise is right for your campaign and whether it sufficiently meets your objectives, and make sure you discuss any compromise with the rest of your group before accepting.

5 easy arguments you can make for the Sweatshop Free campaign

Sometimes it can be hard to pin down why you think your campaign is so important and make clear arguments to decision makers (who can be intimidating!). We’ve put together this list of 5 easy arguments you can make to your university or college to help you along the way.

  1. We have an ethical duty to improve our supply chains. Electronics supply chains have serious problems, with risks of modern slavery. Report after report shows workers earning poverty wages in repressive conditions.

  2. As major purchasers of electronics, universities and colleges have far greater purchasing power than ordinary consumers. They can make a real difference to international problems through Electronics Watch. Even if an institution doesn't spend much, combining purchasing power with others allows real influence on companies to change for the better.

  3. Revelations of workers’ rights abuses in your supply chain could cause major damage to your institution’s reputation. Electronics Watch gives you an early warning and allows you to be proactive at redressing any problems you may have before they hit the headlines.

  4. The cost of joining Electronics Watch is small, even though the cost of monitoring factories is huge. By spending a little money, you can pool resources with many other public sector bodies to get a broader knowledge of the electronics supply chain. This is not possible through social auditing. They have come under serious scrutiny for failing to identify problems. Electronics Watch uses worker led monitoring, which is more cost-effective, and produces reliable information.

  5. Electronics Watch will help your institution comply with the Modern Slavery Act. This legislation requires public bodies to take steps to ensure they don’t have modern slavery within their supply chains. Affiliating to Electronics Watch is one of the easiest ways of ensuring an institution can comply with this legislation in relation to the electronics industry.

5. Up the Ante

Very few campaigns are successful off the back of lobbying alone. Most of the time, they will require a movement and campaign in public and outside of private meetings, helping to build pressure and demonstrate support. Make sure you’re working to show the breadth of support for your campaign and also make management feel under pressure to give in to your demands!

Ideas for action

  • Start a petition - You’ve built up all that support, now it’s time to prove it! Start a petition where students can sign to give their support to your campaign.

  • Photo petition - Photograph hundreds of students holding a sign with your campaign demands. Upload them to social media, create collages, spread it around!

  • Pass an SU motion - Support from your SU is really helpful. SU Officers have access to management - they’re valuable advocates for campaigns. We already have a draft SU motion for you to adapt to your needs, find it here!

  • Demonstrate! - Get students out in droves! March around campus and outside of your Vice Chancellor’s office. You’re harder to ignore when you’re chanting at their door!

  • Mass E-Mails - Create a template e-mail for students to send your target and ask them to send it in. It’s not long before an inbox starts to get really clogged up!

  • Banner drop - Drop a banner from a visible spot on campus to show you are not going away!

  • Social media lobbying - Tweet @ their Twitter handle, post on their Facebook. This helps spread messages and pressure an institution at the same time!

  • Involve staff - when students and staff work together, they’re unstoppable! Contact academics encouraging them to sign an open letter to the institution.

  • Photo stunts - Try and snap a great photo of a group of students making a visual point about the campaign. These work well on social media and in the press!

 Escalate your campaign

There will be times when even after continued lobbying, demonstrations of support and high profile actions, you still won’t have achieved your objectives. Some times, you might feel like you are being delayed for no reason or not being listened to.

If this happens, don’t be afraid of taking bolder actions. Often this is the only way to make an institution pay attention to a campaign, take it seriously and begin to listen to its demands.

At this stage, you not only want to show that you are willing to take more radical and disruptive actions than before, but also that yet more people are supporting your campaign than ever before. Are there any groups you haven’t built support with on campus yet? Can you find new allies outside of campus? Are there any bigger and more direct actions you can still take? Now’s the time!

Escalating your campaign

  • Open Day Actions - Colleges and universities make sure they are looking their best on open days, especially now that more and more of their income comes directly from students. Taking action that can damage their reputation here is a powerful tactic!

  • Bigger Demonstrations - Make sure you keep organising marches, pickets and creative actions and mobilise more and more people to attend! Try and be more creative each time to give people a reason to keep coming back!

  • Phone blockades - Pick a time and day and get a group of students to call your target over and over asking them to meet your campaign demand. It doesn’t take many people to block phonelines, and people can participate from anywhere in the world!

  • Occupy! - Perhaps it’s time to occupy a management building or your Vice Chancellor’s office to bring Electronics Watch up the agenda. If there’s a prominent outdoor space on campus, you could even set up a vibrant camp!

At every stage, it’s important to keep the door open to negotiation and meetings. The further along the campaign you get, and the more you escalate, the more likely it is that management will be willing to meet with you. Make sure to keep pushing for meetings to discuss your campaign.

6. What happens when you win?

So you’ve run your super successful campaign and after the long slog of escalation, lobbying and movement building, you’ve finally won! What next?


Make sure you share your story. Write blogs, give interviews, share resources, and run workshops to let others learn from your success and what you’ve done well. Big successes are inspirational and your story will encourage others to start campaigns or take theirs up a notch, so it’s really important that you spread the word!


There’s lots to do to publicise your win and get the story out to the press. You’ll need to appoint media spokespeople, write press releases and be ready with photos. Don't worry, we'll be there to support you with all of this!

Follow up

Firstly you will need to follow up to make sure the institution does what it said it will do. This means following up on board meetings, checking in on policy, and meeting with the institution’s decision-makers. You may need to increase the campaign pressure if the institution is dragging its feet.

Get trained up

You can do ‘train the trainer’ training with People & Planet and become an organiser in your region, so you can go on to train other groups. By sharing what you’ve learnt, you’ll be able to help their campaign and grow the movement.


Have a party to celebrate all the amazing things you’ve achieved so far! It’s vital to celebrate your successes and share them with the wider movement. Don’t forget to share and celebrate milestones along the way too.