Is Conscious + Ethical Shopping All Just Hype?
Ever heard of the term “sweatshop?” Maybe you’re like me and thought “only big box stores like Walmart or Forever 21 sell products made in sweatshops, right? I don’t really have to worry about this when I shop at Target or the stores at the mall.” --Unfortuately, nope.
Photo by Naganath Chiluveru on Unsplash
It may surprise you to learn that most American brands manufacture their clothing in factories that would be considered sweatshops - that is, factories with unsafe working conditions and unjust wages. Everyone's favorite stores such as Gap, Zara, Target, and H&M have all been implicated in the past, but it is believed that a majority of companies are using similar manufacturing practices. The problem is that there is little transparency in international manufacturing practices, so finding out actual statistics and data is difficult. Companies are not legally held to a standard.
It’s tempting to utilize low wage workers outside of the U.S. in order to cut costs, while turning a blind eye to fair living wages or working conditions. However, “economists from the Political Economy Research Institute found that doubling the pay of non-supervisory workers would add just $1.80 to the cost of a $100 men’s sports jacket." Click here for more info
In addition to low wages for these factory workers, many women are fired for becoming pregnant, limited bathroom breaks are enforced (e.g. two breaks for a sixteen hour work day), overtime is mandatory with the threat of losing your job, and sexual harassment is rampant. Imagine being required to work every Thanksgiving and Christmas, or else you’d lose your job. Safety is a serious issue as well. Factory buildings are not kept up to code, so in some cases there are no emergency exits, even though fires are a common occurrence in factories. There have been reports of children as young as five years old being forced to work twelve to sixteen hour days! Can you imagine your kids having to face this reality just because of what country they were born in?
Human rights organizations that call for labor conditions in factories around the world have sought transparency as a path towards accountability by asking brands to publish factory names and addresses on their website. A devastating factory collapse in 2013 in Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 and injured 2,500 people has spurred some calls to action, asking brands to commit to a Transparency Pledge. Some refused to take the pledge, but several brands since have at the leaset committed to publishing factory information online - this includes powerhouse fast-fashion brand H&M in 2013. Nike and Adiddas, for example, have been publishing their factory information since 2005.
All that to say, it does matter where you purchase your clothing from. I know we don't mean to buy clothing that is manufactured in sweatshops, and we would never consciously want to support inhumane practices. Mosaic is proud and honored to provide ethical goods from valued artisans who are paid a living wage and work in dignified conditions.
Photo by Mark Sherman with Sky Story Media
My call to you is this: do your research. Brands that do not have manufacturing practices and supply chain information listed on their website probably don’t want you (the consumer) to find out. Locally-owned small businesses are a better option, as they can usually trace their supply chain more directly. Know that with each dollar spent, you are either supporting good in this world, or corrupt and inhumane practices.
Which do YOU choose?