How do we know which retailers have ethical practices? Related to the Bangladeshi factory tragedy

(265 Posts)
Cristiane Sun 28-Apr-13 07:15:05

The news from Banglaesh gets worse and worse - 352 people dead so far in the collapses factory where people made clothes for Matalan, Primark and ther names.

I don't want to buy from labels that don't use sweat shops and don't use suppliers that have coercive or dehumanising working conditions. Does anyone know if there is a list prepared of the most ethical retailers?

I think it would be good to link positively to fashion that is ethical, when you post a link to a garment you can take a second to consider if it is ethically produced maybe even pointing out that you think it is(?) - but really are we preaching to the converted? I am not sure a boycott is enough - promoting companies that do have real proven track record in raising standards in working conditions, letting companies that choose to ignore the conditions of workers know it is not acceptable is important too.

Notquitegrownup Sun 28-Apr-13 12:40:20

Thanks Tapsel - have sent email from that site. Agree to a MN campaign/raising awareness here. There are good organisations battling out there to improve things. It would be a wonderful legacy for all of those who died this week, if their deaths contributed to a change in practice for UK companies and their suppliers

Cristiane Sun 28-Apr-13 12:41:45

I think an MN campaign is a great idea. I don't want to do people out of jobs in developing nations but not do I think that we need so many cheap, wear once clothes from Primark etc. I do work in finance and I am aware of the pressure on retailers to keep margins up and costs down.

What does work though is customers voting with their feet and wallets. If we know which retailers to avoid they will sharpen up their act so they don't lose sales

dexter73 Sun 28-Apr-13 13:04:13

Which shops are you boycotting?

wreckitralph Sun 28-Apr-13 13:16:28

This is a bit of a catch 22 position in my opinion. On one hand it is said that if we do not buy the cheap clothes these people will have no income, on the other hand I think these people are exploited.

I have lived in Asia for 16 years and believe me, I have seen plenty of exploitation. I once worked for a company in the hospitality industry and they had outlets all over Asia. They used to employ locals in their outlets and made a handsome profit. They they replaced those people with people from the Philippines because they were cheaper, then they replaced those Philippinos with people from Myanmar because "you had to pay Philippinos USD 100 and Burmese only USD50 a month". We are not talking about cheap garments being made here here we are talking about 5-star hospitality where the rich hang out. The price never came down, just the costs making more profit for the company.

Yes I think that we need to shop more ethically, but even if we try and change things, you will always have companies who continue to squeeze and squeeze.

Where I live you can employ a Phillipina to live in your house and do everything (cook, clean, iron, wash the car, mind your 3 kids like a nanny as people expect her to be Mary Poppins) 7 days a week (law is to give them 1 day off a month - not always adhered to I may add) for 200 pounds a month. I know lots of people who won't hire them and instead hire a Bangladeshi for 80 pounds a month and because you don't need to give them a day off.

Seriously, if they are using Bangladeshis, it's because they are the cheapest labour on the planet. Seriously, I am not trying to be offensive. I really do want to know what the average wage for one of these seamstresses is? I know that Bangladeshi men are paid 8 pounds a day to work on construction sites in Asia.

I would like to see some sort of labelling on goods as to where it was made. Our food is broken down, why not our products? I's also like to see our overseas aid going to countries like Bangladesh to improve their structure and standard of living. We don't get to hear much of them nor do I believe we send them any money. Oh, they don't have anything we can strip, that's why!

roseinwinter Sun 28-Apr-13 14:16:25

I completely agree that this is a government not individual consumer issue and would definitely support a MN campaign/boycott.
If we in the UK can have a law that enables companies violating UK bribery laws anywhere in the world to be fined and prosecuted here (the Bribery Act) then I don't see why we can't have an equivalent law for companies violating human rights / basic labour laws elsewhere and selling their goods here. I suppose it all comes down to money.
What happened in Bangladesh is not an accident. It was entirely avoidable. There is a fine line between putting pressure on companies to improve their ethical standards and causing those same companies to move their manufacturing bases but that line does exist and efforts have to be made to find it.
As a consumer I find it horrifying that i am probably contributing to human tragedies like this one and have no way of knowing which companies are responsibly producing clothes.
Is the only way to make sure you are not perpetuating these practices buying in eBay/from charity shops or making your own?

FrancesFarmer Sun 28-Apr-13 14:20:10

WreckItRalph - I agree with you on the labeling question. If we can trace food products, why can't we trace garments? And have independent inspections of the factories? We need more transparency.

I don't care if it's hassle for clothing companies or if it means they make slightly less profit - it's worth it. European governments have a duty here because this problem is too complex for individual "consumers" to tackle - we are exporting this stuff into our countries and we must ensure we don't have blood on our hands when we do so.

FrugalFashionista Sun 28-Apr-13 14:35:41

I think companies will clean up their act when they know they are being watched and cut corners if we allow them to continue to do so.

How about a Primark ban? They have got lots of positive publicity on MN in the past (all the threads about 'Primarni' finds). If someone is more informed, please feel free to add to the list. The ban would mean 1) no personal and family shopping with them and 2) no pictures, blog posts or positive reviews about items bought from them.

Lots of clothes manufacturing operates by subcontracting. It's very complex but I think the aim should be a gradual increase in working and living conditions for all (= we understand we may have to pay more, think fairtrade tea, coffee and bananas).

I've shopped a lot at Zara, H&M and their affiliate chains and they are some of the biggest global gigants and they have a huge amount of subcontracters. Will need to do a bit of homework to decide whether they are already doing something to improve their practices.

We've done positive promotion for ethical niche labels here before and there is no harm in continuing to do so, but it is not enough. They play a bit part in the global trade - the gigants have the biggest influence. And we are an important customer base for the gigants.

FrugalFashionista Sun 28-Apr-13 14:45:12

H&M are definitely listening - read this Guardian article. Gilding the lily - possibly? But you have to start somewhere...

FrugalFashionista Sun 28-Apr-13 14:57:26

Interesting site - Rankabrand - for consumers trying to decide which brands are sustainable.

I think it is a complex issue, real independent auditing of factories and working conditions would be a start - with grading system to show what kind of conditions/wages the workers have to put up with. A number on the label saying where the garment is made and how ethical/fair is the factory?

Could it be quite simple to do. What charities are involved in monitory the human rights. Of workers? Aims for improvement again on a grading system to see what has been achieved and what needs to be worked on.

The thing is if I can buy fairtrade, if it is available, I will buy it, bananas, coffee, tea, I have bought fairtrade fashion conscious clothing in the past but it is getting harder to find and if consumers don't demand it... Even if the cotton is fairtrade their is no guarantee the person making a garment is fairly treated.

This doesn't just happen in Bangladesh - boycotting clothes from there might do more damage than good? The pressure has to be on the companies. If they are willing to listen to their customers.

I am not wearing anything fairtrade today:

Bra - Freya - made in Tunisia
Knickers & vest - m & s - made in Sri Lanka
Jeans - uniqlo - made in China
T-shirt - H&M - made in Bangladesh

I have stopped shopping in TP/DP because of tax evasion, Homebase etc because of workfare - but I think the treatment of workers in the garment industry is actually morally/ethically much much worse.

It makes me feel sick, angry and sad. What can I do?

SprinkleLiberally Sun 28-Apr-13 15:41:30

This is such a complex issue. As a consumer I want to buy ethically, but information is key. There is also the "best of a very bad bunch" scenario with pretty much all of the high street. So firstly I would welcome proper information.

Secondly, as a consumer we have some responsibility, but it is important to remember where key responsibilities and power to change lie. With companies and subcontractors and factory owners.

BangOn Sun 28-Apr-13 15:41:57

There is already a fair trade label for clothes ; it's exactly the same as that on a jar of coffee. Problem is, you have to actively seek out fair trade clothing from Nomads, People Tree, Ascension etc, to find it. These brands are limited, & few in number & doing their best, but if we want fair trade to become the default option for clothing (as amazingly sugar, tea & chocolate now are) then we're going to have to exercise our ethical duty as consumers, until the fall in demand for sweatshop produce induces a moral conscience in the big retailers.

MrsCampbellBlack Sun 28-Apr-13 15:53:09

I would gladly boycott shops/brands that exploit their workers but I just don't know/can't find a definitive list.

Easy for me to boycott primark/Matalan as I never shop there anyway but interested in places like zara/h&m/gap and also the higher end of the high street so places like whistles/boden/comptoir etc. I tend to assume if I'm paying a higher price it should be ok but I don't really know.

SprinkleLiberally Sun 28-Apr-13 16:01:17

From what I've read, higher price is mo guarantee unfortunately.

Cristiane Sun 28-Apr-13 16:57:00

So maybe it would be a good idea as well to have a list of ethical retailers to start off with - bangon you say People Tree, Ascension and Nomads

Do any of them make children's clothes?

It is weird that fair trade is established for food goods. I was thinking about my 'organic' cotton tops from H&M and Sainsburys... And how weird that organic is seen as a selling point and not fair trade for clothes!

Forgetfulmog Sun 28-Apr-13 17:00:30

There's a petition ongoing at the moment, will find a link...

Forgetfulmog Sun 28-Apr-13 17:01:55
Mondrian Sun 28-Apr-13 17:39:54

I used to have some info on the rag trade but not upto date with it - assume its pretty much the same. They buy from wherever that has the lowest price. It used to be India then moved to cheaper Pakistan, then moved to Philippines, then Vietnam and now Bangladesh. If a retailer/buyer had an ethical requirement then all that was required was a statement from the supplier saying that they produce according to those guidelines.

It is very difficult to control due to the long supply chain spread over different countries & continents, the fibre suppliers, the yarn makers, the weavers, the finishers and then there is all the zips, buttons, interlinings ....

wasn't apple linked to problems at several manufacturing sites in china, with reported suicides, explosions etc, apparently they managed to hide behind the supply chain.

What I am saying is that we probably end up with some PR effort rather than real change for the slave labour.

FrugalFashionista Sun 28-Apr-13 19:05:12

A very simple and helpful ethical ranking list of major UK high street clothes vendors (includes H&M and Zara).

You can of course argue about the criteria, but you also need to start somewhere. Bottom line: if you care at all about factory workers' conditions, don't buy dirt cheap clothes and don't buy your clothes at supermarkets.

Zara have repeatedly had problems with slave/ child labor in South America.

YoniOno Sun 28-Apr-13 19:24:09

Looking through the Rankabrand site linked above, which rates brands A to E based on criteria including not employing child labour and so on, there are some interesting/depressing finds on brands I like, and brands that are often mentioned on here. Have picked out ones people on S and B might be interested in out of a total of 258 brands.

A (top rated) only 4 brands made this category.

Nudie jeans - DH has a pair of these, cost over £100 from Selfridges, they're really good jeans and I had no idea they were fair trade so smile to them.

B

Cos, Veja, H and M, Cheap Monday,Vila and Vero Moda. Also mama-licious who I haven't heard of for maternity stuff but will check out.

C

Zara, Primark, New Look, Gap, Monsoon, ASOS, Esprit, Next. High end - Acne and Stella McCartney

D

New Balance, Coast, Laura Ashley, Benetton (surprised!) Victoria's Secret, North Face, UGG. High end - Burberry, Calvin Klein, Gucci, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Chloe.

E (lowest of the low, start your boycotts with these guys)

Dr Martens, Triumph, Sloggi, Hollister, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Jacobs (my fave, gulp), Fendi, Louis Vuitton (!), DKNY, Quiksilver, Freya, Michael Kors, French Connection, Hush Puppies, Crocs, Alexander McQueen, Paul Smith, Dior, Versace, Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana, Vivienne Westwood, Havaianas ( sad ), Prada, Kenzo, Chanel, La Perla, Falke, Lanvin, Clarks, Desigual, Louboutin, Miu Miu, Diesel, Ralph Lauren, Jimmy Choo, Burton, MaxMara, Isabel Marant and Givenchy.

Omg. So many top end brands in the worst ranked for working conditions sad angry

dexter73 Sun 28-Apr-13 19:29:08

I'm surprised about Vivienne Westwood. She always seems to try to be so 'right on' yet she is in the bottom category.

redwellybluewelly Sun 28-Apr-13 19:36:38

Interesting thread, thank you OP.

I've recently been shopping for my maternity hospital bag, I'm booked for an ELCS so need PJs and clothes which sre high up to avoid scar. The only high street shop which sold anything which would do was Primark (none of our high street shops offer a maternity range anymore) but the day after ti bought them the news hit about the building collapse.

I really now want to return these items, ethically I don't want to feel bad about the clothes I'm wearing. Financially however buying and then paying for returns from Internet shopping stings a bit.

Thread has helped me make up my mind.

Forgetfulmog Sun 28-Apr-13 19:37:15

Yoni - that is really shocking to see those brands in the bottom set, when you think of all the profits the shareholders of those brands must be making confused

hollyisalovelyname Sun 28-Apr-13 19:38:47

Cristiane well done for starting this yhread. Perhaps the power of Mumsnet will help the manufacturers wake up and take notice. We want ethically produced garments.... There for the grace of the gods go i.... Fickle finger of fate deems i was born in the west with its labour laws. But we should fight for those less fortunate

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