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High street shops that don't use sweatshops

(31 Posts)
mewmeow Thu 24-Oct-13 06:23:03

High street shops that don't use sweatshops!
Just as the title suggests really. I have done some research, and I know ones to avoid are: Next, monsoon, m&s, miss selfridge, primark, Nike (brand). I'm not sure about new look, mothercare and h&m?! Also, not sure about supermarket stuff? If anyone has any more advice I'd be very greatful! Normally use charity shops, but sometimes it's necessary to get stuff first hand. Only recently started considering it, as we had a lecture at uni about capitalism and exploitation etc. very nasty sad

Darkchocsprinkles Thu 24-Oct-13 07:17:05

American Apparel are quite clear about their policy here but with other retailers it can be almost impossible to know.

Edinburgh Woollen Mills and Aldi are both known to use factories in Bangladesh where workers have died in fires or have been filmed being locked in to the factory while security guards go for a break - this is to stop theft, apparently, but you can imagine what the consequences are if fire breaks out sad

It's a major factor in my policy of buying fewer, better made clothes. Helps the planet too wink Not easy on a student budget, though, so I really admire you taking a stand.

Good luck wink

dizhin79 Thu 24-Oct-13 07:19:15

there's a book I used to get it published ethical companies, it's something like green shopping or green directory and would rate the high street, there's prob a website now, maybe ask this in the ethical section

Floisme Thu 24-Oct-13 07:52:28

I think a lot of the work has been outsourced to such a degree that finding out who uses dodgy practices is a real problem. For example, I had read (I think it was a Labour Behind The Label report) that M&S and Next (which the Op lists as bad guys) were among the better companies, ethically speaking.

Also I don't think we can assume that better made/pricier clothes are always more ethically produced - you hear bad stories about designer clothes too. I've just been listening to a spokesman from Primark talking about the aftermath of the Bangladeshi fire and he was strongly hinting that a 'Bond Street retailer' used the same factories that they do. And at least, after the fire, Primark accepted responsibility and paid compensation straight away - other companies are still denying everything and so families haven't received a penny.

I dpn't want to defend Primark, I'm just saying how messy it all is. The only company I am really confident about is People Tree and unfortunately, I don't like their clothes enough to buy them very often. I would love to hear other information if anyone has any.

imip Thu 24-Oct-13 11:07:16

This is a major factor for me shopping also. I steer clear of h&m, supermarket clothes, Zara, cos, primary etc. all the low, low cost clothing manufacturers. Clothes really can't be that cheap, can they?

I buy American apparel, but frankly, I am 42 and have had five children - I am not a young slip of a thing (but there leggings really do suck you in!).

Vintage is probably the best!

I've been buying whistles of late - not sure how they rate. As someone mentioned upthread, price is not a good determinant.

SundaySimmons Thu 24-Oct-13 11:19:56

I disagree.

I recently met a Philippino lady and had a conversation about jobs. Back home, she and her family worked in clothing and electrical 'sweat shops'.

They worked long hours and could earn £3 a day. I expressed my concern at the low pay and she laughed and said that they expect to work hard, but job prospects are poor and the companies who invest in production in the Philippines being much needed jobs to the people.

The wages are low only when comparable to ours. The standard if living is completely different to ours and these jobs provide a much needed regular income for them.

Many of the companies funded by foreign investors provide far safer working conditions than factories owned and run by their own people.

No, it's not ideal but these people would starve if they didn't work and whilst in an ideal world it would be great to have a global minimum wage, we have to accept that different countries will be poorer than us but that investing business in them helps them to earn an income that to them, is far better than poverty.

Anyfuckergate Thu 24-Oct-13 11:52:34

This link
may be helpful for ethical buying.
hth smile

MrsCurly Thu 24-Oct-13 11:55:31

It depends what you mean by sweatshops but nearly all the clothes sold in the UK are manufactured overseas, mainly in the Far East.

The answer is to buy less. And if you do buy something buy something second hand or something that will last a very long time.

Thistledew Thu 24-Oct-13 12:08:56

Sunday - that is no argument against paying a living wage. We live in a disposable culture in the UK where we can buy a new TV for less than a weeks wage. There is a huge amount of profit going into the pockets of the business owners and shareholders. In my view there is no defensible moral argument to say that the people making our cheap goods should not be paid a living wage, either by is paying a bit more for our goods or by more of the profit going to the workers.

chartreuse Thu 24-Oct-13 12:09:59

There was a big thread about this about 6 months ago after that dreadful fire, have a search for it, there was lots of interesting stuff on it

sleepdodger Thu 24-Oct-13 13:24:19

Er how do you define a sweat shop?
M&S and next do not use them, I know for certain
Rest cant comment on
Min wages may be low but that doesn't make it a sweat shop any more than a min wage job elsewhere in non uk
And fwiw most factories would not get the skilled labour for min wage, usually at least double, which is extremely low to us but classed as a good living wage in developing countries and in comparison to other industries (eg think of metal works etc)
I absolutely stand with you on avoiding swat shops but I do have first hand experience in this area so interested to know what you perceive a ss to be

sleepdodger Thu 24-Oct-13 13:26:29

And gain please do not assume paying more means better conditions
It absolutely doesn't hmm

1gglePiggle Thu 24-Oct-13 13:46:30

Buy items made in England. Top shop have a few lines that are, and the more they are popular hopefully the more they will stock in future. Prices not any more than usual either.

oohdaddypig Thu 24-Oct-13 13:57:10

I think it's wrong to assume that the cheap shops are the only ones who are culpable here.

Just because we pay more, doesn't mean that translates to better conditions for the employees.

I think h and m are one of the better ones from my (limited) knowledge.

I think the high street shops who charge us less get unfair criticism here. I would love to see the ethical credentials of the more upmarket brands..

SundaySimmons Thu 24-Oct-13 14:35:48

The Philippino lady I met said that she had met people in the Uk who said they didn't buy from companies that use cheap labour abroad and she urged them to change their mind.

She is in the UK, married to a British man and they have children, she works hard, is studying but has relatives back home that woke for £3 a day and by our boycotting companies that manufacture in these countries, she says it will make her family and friends back home, suffer, because they will lose their jobs and the money they earn.

What is needed is a global minimum wage or a law where say for example a British company has their goods manufactured abroad, they should be able to set the minimum wage as comparable to that in Britain.

Apileofanyfuckers Thu 24-Oct-13 14:42:49

You could keep an eye out for made in europe labels on clothes. I find a lot of stuff in TKMaxx is made in European countries. I do understand where you are coming from and also see the point where people in developing countries need work too. I suppose if companies could guarantee good health and safety standards it would be an excellent start.

oohdaddypig Thu 24-Oct-13 14:57:52

Apile - I do agree. I feel that employment rights should come from and be enforced by governments and not companies in other countries. For similar reasons, I don't think you could impose our minimum wage in other countries as you are not comparing like with like.

I do like to buy European made too, but it does also cross mind as to the working conditions and pay there too - and who they employ eg illegal immigrants who have little rights.

missmartha Thu 24-Oct-13 15:52:26

It's a blinking minefield and as Sunday says it's all relative too.

I think safe working conditions are more important than pay to a large extent.

I remember reading in the Green Book or whatever last year, that Paul Smith and Hobbs, don't give a toss. But I may be wrong .George at Asda got really good marks for everything.

OrangeOpalFruit Thu 24-Oct-13 15:59:35

But even workers in this country aren't paid a living wage - the working poor are a growing group. Unless highly specialised, anyone working in garment manufacture will be earning a low wage and that seems to have always been the case, from Victorian women taking in piece work to the garment districts of early 20th century New York.

I wouldn't avoid the lower priced stores. Paying more just means that the mark up is even more obscene and the poverty wages even less justified.

mewmeow Thu 24-Oct-13 23:23:32

Hi everyone,
Thanks for the replies! Seems there isn't really an entirely ethical alternative out there on the high street sad
I know that just paying more in no way guarantees that the manufacturers don't use sweatshops- as highlighted by someone, they may in fact be worse! It does make me so mad, as someone ubove said (sorry can't remember names am on phone), it really should be the governments responsibility to enforce tighter regulations, however, champions of a neo-liberalist approach that they are, I can't see them ever doing that. Therefore it does fall to us as consumers to boycott and demand better restrictions (or a completely new system).
It makes me sad that someone said they would urge western consumers to carry on buying unethically to ensure the workers at least recieve something. How can the only options be effectively a slave wage or starvation?! If we restructured the economy we could have enough to feed everyone. There has to be a better, more fairer system that we can strive for.
I try to buy second hand, but sometimes it's nice to have something new, particularly for dd. Our house is absolutely crammed (same as most other people's in uk I guess) with too many clothes, books, games, toys, technology etc. But it is difficult as a mum not to live this way, as you feel that by not buying these things you will be depriving your children, giving them a disadvantage etc. I don't want my dd to be a reflection of my own ethics and morals. It is so hard to get it right sometimes sad

mewmeow Thu 24-Oct-13 23:25:37

* I take back the bit about "most other" that should read "some other", I do realise that there is severe poverty in uk as well and that things are pretty shit for a good proportion of people here too.

Wallison Thu 24-Oct-13 23:46:17

There is an argument - and for me it's a pretty compelling one - that boycotts don't work in this situation. Groups representing workers in Bangladesh for example have said that they don't want consumers to boycott Primark et al because of the fear that they will pull out and commence operations - and equally shady operations - elsewhere, putting one set of workers out of jobs and continuing to treat other workers in a different place just as badly. So what can you do instead? Well, you can look to global organisations that are friendly with or affiliated to workers' groups and unions and support them. There are people out there - people like Labour Behind the Label for example - who have been active on this front for years. Support their campaign and those of others like them, by signing petitions and lobbying companies to take their responsibilities seriously. But don't stop buying the clothes, because those workers need you to buy their clothes. There are people out there, on the ground, campaigning - help them.

mewmeow Fri 25-Oct-13 00:25:30

Yes I agree, I think campaigning is definitely the only real solution here. Still feel shit about buying the goods there though, knowing what goes in to making something that dd will wear a handful of times then grow out of. Thanks for the heads up about labour behind the label. Will check that out.

Wallison Fri 25-Oct-13 00:44:29

If it makes you feel any better at all, the workers' groups don't seem to 'blame' Westerners for buying the clothes - their anger is reserved for the utterly corrupt and venal factory managers who oversee the actual garment making operations. These same people can have pressure brought to bear on them if companies such as Primark insist that they comply with even minimum safety standards and listen to workers' representatives and so on; which is something that is more likely to happen if Primark has pressure put on it by campaigning organisations so the more pressure there is, the better chance of things changing.

imip Fri 25-Oct-13 05:27:33

Perhaps in manufactuers 'brought' back their supply chains, it would ensure more ethical standards of labour. However, they knowingly outsource to unscrupulous manufactures. I remember some years ago GAP got good publicity by burning a load of sequinned tops made by young Asian boys around 7yo. A shame to seem them drop in their ratings in the past year or so.

Hard to by ethically when there are no options out there.

I do live by the rule that if clothes are TOO cheap, it is just too questionable to buy them.

Sadly it is our consumerist culture that is responsible for all of this.

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