It's easy to come across information on the global garment industry lately due to many unfortunate recent events, but sometimes you just don't have time to read every article. To help you stay informed, we've done some of the reading for you. Here's the tl;dr (too long; didn't read) for NY Times, David Welsh's Op-Ed on Fair Trade for the Global Garment Industry or check the link below for the full article.
THE ISSUE: Big brands are in a perpetual race to the bottom, chasing the lowest production costs they can find, moving from one country to another when those costs rise too much. Many deliberately choose countries with inadequate labor laws and weak health and safety regulations simply because it is cheaper that way. This is how they are reaping in profits in the BILLIONS, even though these workers in Bangladesh, Honduras, Cambodia, Mexico, and more can't even make a living wage.
WHO'S TO BLAME: Major brands claim they don't have the ability to improve working conditions in factories. "While it is true that they do not own, or even manage, the factories they source from and that they do not write the laws of sourcing countries, they have tremendous leverage over both."
WHAT TO DO: "To counteract the brands’ habit of playing one producing country off another, local unions could coordinate with international union groups to demand that working standards be harmonized across the global production chain. Likewise, governments from sourcing countries should act together: Rather than be driven by the fear of losing out to one another, they should form a bloc and insist that the big brands set uniform standards for wages, union rights and workplace safety. Western governments have tremendous leverage, too, especially those, like the United States and European Union states, that provide trade preferences to certain supplier countries. They should condition any such trade privileges on the implementation of better protections for workers in sourcing countries."
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consumers have the ultimate power, buying power! "End-product buyers could require the brands to be transparent about their sourcing, and ask them to identify not only the countries, but also the specific factories from which the brands supply themselves. Consumers could also commit to purchasing only, or paying more for, products manufactured by workers who are earning a living wage."
Remember, your knowledge is power and the more you know, the more change you can influence!
For more details, check out the full article at the New York Times here.