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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?

BridgeMix Sun 28-Jul-13 10:45:28

Bumping this. Would LOVE to see mumsnet harness its power to encourage companies to promote transparency in such a complex issue.

Harrisonsnanna Mon 17-Jun-13 11:10:28

I am a nanna to a ten month old Grandson and have 2 daughters both grown up, I have always been a hands on mum and tried to instil in my daughters the ethical issues of buying from companies who do not treat their workers well. as part of this I am also very interested in the issues of workers welfare. When I heard about this factory collapsing I was very shocked, at the moment I am studying fashion and textiles and I am very interested in the issues around the sustainability of textiles and the chain of clothing manufacture and purchase. I think it is time that as a society we stopped looking at the volume of clothes we think we need and look to the long term use of clothes, for example quality over cheep. I know these clothes are more expensive and yes children grow so quickly but good quality clothes mean good value and good quality second hand clothes and hand me downs. Fashion for young children should not really be an issue as they should be more interested in getting mucky and playing not how good they look in the latest fashion. I know we all like our children to look rosy cheeked and clean and well dressed, I am not saying they shouldn't be, but do they need so many items of clothing.
please as a nation we have a voice and together we can stand and make a difference it wont happen over night but it can happen if everyone demands the quality and for a fare wage for the worker.

FrugalFashionista Thu 30-May-13 22:56:08

I'm very happy NY Times still follows what is going on in Bangladesh.

FrugalFashionista Fri 24-May-13 12:10:14

My Izzy Lane British cashmere top arrived and I absolutely love it - new favorite item!

I instintively reach now for the clothes that I've background-checked. Loving my new ethical items!

ppeatfruit Fri 24-May-13 09:54:22

But Fitflop are actually positive and are addressing the issue which is better than most of them! I googled Auchan (which is a large Sainsburys type supermarket here (Fr.) and they talk about being signed up to FDS which is also better than nothing. Monoprix didn't mention anything but they do have organic cotton clothes sometimes as do Auchan and Intermarche.

FrugalFashionista Fri 24-May-13 07:56:21

Excellent Mrsradicchio! Minimum wage is not a living wage in most countries, most garment workers support large families either locally or back in their villages and food prices have risen. Issues like mass faintings may imply that many workers are very hungry during their long shifts.

The more I'm reading, the more I'm convinced that tve self-monitoring by the companies just isn't enough. Cambodia has had a lot of 3rd party involvement via ILO and that has helped. But our economic slumps and boycotts can be devastating - factories close, garment workers lose their jobs and have to find other work (often much less desirable options). A complex issue, but our pushing the prices down and too fast cycles seem to drive the worst forms of exploitation. Asking questions and preferring companies who are really working on CSR is a way to say that we stand for change.

I've bought my pajamas for a decade from this small company that does all the sewing in the US. Great quality, they are still great after up to 10 years of intensive wear.

MrsRadicchio Thu 23-May-13 22:12:02

Got a couple of replies (epic post alert!)

Fitflop -

" Where are your fabrics and shoes made?
Our shoes are made in Vietnam, China & Thailand.
We source fabrics from all over the world, however for sustainability reasons, we aim to use local fabrics wherever possible.

Do you have a company ethical policy regarding how you source the fibres used and how the people who make the shoes are treated?
Yes, FitFlop has a code of conduct which must be followed by all of our business partners, and their suppliers. Briefly this details:-
- Excellence in every aspect of our business in every corner of the world;
- Ethical and responsible conduct in all of our operations;
- Respect for the rights of all individuals; and
- Respect for the environment.
Members of FitFlop staff are constantly visiting all of our factories and are our eyes and ears, looking for any breaches in this respect and in the 7 years we have never encountered any issue or concern.

Are you committed to paying the workers a living wage?
Yes, our code of conduct states that workers will be paid at least the minimum legal wage or a wage that is consistent with local industry standards, whichever is the greater. In any event, wages should always be enough to meet basic needs and to provide some discretionary income.

Do you have plans to use organic and/ or fair-trade fibres?
Yes, as an innovative, forward thinking company, we are always looking for new ideas to improve our products, and to lessen our impact on the environment. This is something that we review each season and will consider if we think is suitable. We have recently recruited and made a new job role within the business to ensure this.

We will look into having this information on our website and I have asked the necessary team to look into this, please keep your suggestions coming an we will keep you updated with our progress. "

Dr Martens - just pointed me to the social responsibility part of their website. I asked about a couple of specific shoes and they told me where they were made.

Still find it all a bit wishy washy, like they know the spiel to give.

The book you are reading sounds interesting Frugal.

Nancy Dee another ethical clothing website, a few basics included!

FrugalFashionista Thu 23-May-13 08:06:29

Saw links to two ethical alternatives elsewhere on S&B, converse-lookalikes and scarves!

FrugalFashionista Wed 22-May-13 17:52:21

Sorry <touch screen fail>, complex economic issues via letting you share a meal/day/outing with garment workers from different countries, and helping to understand what the real issues are. Bottom line: the wages in Bangladesh are not living wages and few garment workers gain any long-term benefit from their involvement with the trade. Rural poverty is the driving force and the employees are meek, docile women who have few alternatives. Often making ends meet and feeding one's family is still difficult despite very long hours - hunger is not uncommon.

FrugalFashionista Wed 22-May-13 17:45:14

Fantastic Forgetful!
I've read 'Where are you wearing' and it's fascinating - it tackles com

Forgetfulmog Wed 22-May-13 08:55:51

My response to Fat Face:

"Thank you for your prompt and in depth reply; I appreciate you taking your time to be so concise.

I wonder if you would mind forwarding my original email to senior management though? I think it important that clothing companies are aware that consumers do want to buy clothes that are more ethically produced, especially in light of the Bangladesh crisis.

From your email I appreciate that your company is trying to ensure workers are treated fairly, but I do think that more can be done (and all clothing companies need to share this responsibility).

Thank you again and, as I said, I would appreciate you making senior management aware of my email."

Freya & Panache have no info at all on their websites about Ethical Policies confused Have sent them both emails today. I am not expecting good replies from them though hmm

Forgetfulmog Tue 21-May-13 20:59:30

Thanks frugal for the email template!

I'm going to try Freya & Panache tomorrow - I'm currently bf & wearing Panache bras, but pre-preg I wore Freya - only have a 28" back so very few bra brands fit hmm

FrugalFashionista Tue 21-May-13 20:47:46

Fantastic Forgetful and MrsR! So glad you are doing this thanks
I've been super busy with work but have started reading a great book - Where I Am Wearing.
An American guy takes grassroots activism a notch further and visits the countries from where his clothes come. He's an anthropology major /surf bum (from Ohio! grin ) and writes in an endearingly simple, plain and honest way about the people he meets and the questions he does and does not ask.

Another small thing - I needed a new sun hat (the old one literally crumbled to pieces) as I'm battling pigment spots - I resisted high street and street vendor options and found a really nice fairtrade panama from Pachacuti. Can recommend!

I got a friendly answer from People Tree too. Not the same as yours, I was a bit more specific, they are straddling the difficult terrain between offering variety and trends and trying to provide basics (I'm sure other people have asked why ethical fashion has to be so plain).

ppeatfruit Tue 21-May-13 12:55:56

IMO there should be specific members of each company who are employed solely to 'trace' the supply chains and physically travel to the countries to check on everything that pertains to the companies' products. As I'm typing this I'm thinking that would be a huge undertaking which is obviously why they don't do it!

Forgetfulmog Tue 21-May-13 09:44:36

Out of sight out of mind though isn't it? There's just no responsibility anymore anywhere, which is just a shame

MrsRadicchio Tue 21-May-13 09:36:16

Forgetful - yes, I agree it seems like a considered response, she was trying to answer your question and bering honest with it. Just worrying that there is such a long supply chain that the companies just don't know what is going on and can choose to turn a blind eye to it.

Forgetfulmog Tue 21-May-13 09:29:33

Mrsrad, yes it is a little, but I was quite impressed by the tone tbh. It really did seem like the person who replied (I removed her name for security) was trying her best to answer. I haven't responded to her yet but will do.

I don't think we're going to get any straightforward answers but at least the info is getting out there.

On a separate note, I am just amazed at how few people have heard about the Rana Plaza collapse - it was on the bbc website for weeks, but many people I've spoken to haven't heard about it, nor do they care when I tell them confused

MrsRadicchio Tue 21-May-13 09:21:08

Just read the NY times article Frugal linked to.

This worries me:
"Even companies with the best intentions can’t guarantee the well-being of workers in a slippery, writhing global supply chain, with layers of temporary subcontractors."

MrsRadicchio Tue 21-May-13 09:19:25

I have emailed a few places too - Sam Edelman, Clarks, Fit Flop and Dr Martens (bit of a mixed bunch). Waiting on replies but will post if I get any. DM and Clarks did have some info on their website, the problem I find is it is hard to decipher how meaningful it really is.

Interesting response by FatFace - it all seems a bit wishy washy. Hopefully emails like we are sending will prompt more scrutiny.

ppeatfruit Tue 21-May-13 09:03:20

I've just signed another petition by Avaaz to push GAP into signing with the other big companies. They have a lot of clout.

Forgetfulmog Tue 21-May-13 07:02:58

Just had a response back from the email I sent fatface:

"Many thanks for your email regarding our trading policies.

Our items are sourced from various parts of the world, Far east ( china), India, and Europe. Which is the same as most other retailers on the high street.

Since the company started in 1988, we have been working closely with our suppliers, and aim to ensure all factory workers are treated fairly. To this end, we issued a Code of Conduct, based on the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code, and every factory must be able to demonstrate compliance to this when requested. This code covers areas such as child labour, discrimination, working hours, discipline practices, freedom of association and health and safety.

We can see what workers earn through Sedex. We want to make sure workers get a living wage, not just minimum wage. Sadly, I can't honestly tell you precisely what the average worker gets paid at present I’m afraid.

With all of the above, though it's clearly not prefect, with SEDEX and ETI, we can make some real improvements to the lives of the people who
make our products. You can find loads of information at

If you need anything else, just let me know, and I'll do my best to help. I hope this has gone some way to reassuring you!

Kind Regards"

FrugalFashionista Mon 20-May-13 17:56:28

Another much more focused article from today's NY Times - EU and UN involvement might help too. If anyone knows how to get politicians involved, please let me know grin

FrugalFashionista Mon 20-May-13 17:43:52

Thanks Allthingspretty!

NY Times keeps covering the Bangladeshi aftermath but today's story is really strange. Anyhow, it seems, direct customer feedback to the stores' websites has some real influence!

Allthingspretty Sun 19-May-13 09:45:02

Lauren Laverne's fashion column addresses the issue

Shamr they don't give her more words for her column as she sems very constrained by the small word count

ppeatfruit Sat 18-May-13 17:22:24

Thank for linking properly BTW! frugal

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