I have focused much of this blog on the conditions under which clothes are made, and have avoided looking deeper into the tangled mess of the supply chain.
This article from the Atlantic does a very good job of explaining the difficulty in changing labour practices all the way down the supply chain. They take a look the company Patagonia who tries very hard to produce ethically made clothes and have had success in the factories that produce their clothing. However, issues arise further down the supply chain with the growers and those making the fabric.
The use of slave, forced or other unethical labour practices are well established in many countries and sometimes even legal. The article suggests that “real change will require ending the practice of short-term contracts and radically altering the way brands compensate both suppliers and workers, rather than just tackling isolated problems factory by factory.”
Right now it seems that advancements are done company by company. Patagonia for instance is asking all suppliers to do away with fees for workers (fees workers pay to get and keep their jobs) effective June 1 of this year.
The hitch is that many companies are beholden to shareholders and are desperate to keep costs down. Even if they would like to produce ethically made clothing, they are struggling.
“All of these suppliers are desperately trying to find ways to cut costs. The only thing they have substantial control over is labor.”
This article really drives home for me what the issue really is:
As long as we as consumer demand plentiful and cheap clothing, labour abuses will continue. The cost for clothes far outstrips the price we pay.