Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Toolbox for Ethical Shopping Pt. 3

 People in North America have more money than they know what to do with, so they spend without much thought for the people behind their purchases.  In fact, according to morssglobalfinance.com1, in 2008, the average American spent over $1,100 on clothing and footwear.  That’s a whopping $352 billion spent in just one of the 196 countries in the world.  However, this affluence is the opposite of what most people experience.  Take the 3.5 million people who work in the Bangladeshi garment industry for instance, who produce most of this clothing. The ones who are lucky enough to be paid for their work make about $576.00 per year.2 If you ask me, this is anything but just.

And that's why it's so important to know where and how your clothing is made.  If we are pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into the garment industry each year, shouldn't those who spend their lives making our clothes reap some of the benefits?  Fortunately, many companies are working to make sure that they do.  This is part 3 of 7 of my guide on which stores to support, and which to avoid.  In seven parts, I will be analyzing the policies of the companies that have stores in my local mall, Coquitlam Centre.  If you don't shop at Coquitlam Centre (or even know where it is), don't skip over this, as many of these companies have stores all over North America.

The Gap
The Gap has a pretty bad reputation, specifically since on of their buildings were involved in the 2013 Bangladesh factory collapse.  But they are actively working to atone for their part in that tragedy.  The Gap Inc. has adopted a statement under the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act.  Their statement says that child, forced and trafficked labour will not be used in any Gap products, and that they will actively monitor their factories.  Gap Inc. had both announced and unannounced audits.  However, they are mostly conducted by their staff.

Garage is the same company as Dynamite.  Check out part 2 to see why Garage scored red.

Golf Town
Golf Town had no information on their supply chain.

The GUESS website also had no information on their supply chain.

Gymboree is a children's clothing store that cares about kids everywhere!  In fact, they prohibit cotton sourced from Uzbekistan because of it's history of forced child labour.  Their policy states that no one under the age of 15, or higher where the age of school completion is higher, is permitted to work in their factories.  They go above and beyond though: "Factories are encouraged to develop lawful workplace apprenticeship programs whenever possible for the educational benefit of their workers, provided that all participants meet both our minimum age standard of 15 and minimum legal age requirements."3  They also state that they will not use forced, indentured or prison labour in the making of their products.  They also monitor and assess compliance in their factories, but did not say whether it was through a third party company.


H&M impressed me a couple years ago when they announced that they would be increasing their prices in order to ensure that their garment producers were paid fairly.  Their code of ethics is thorough and impressive.  They state that child labour is unacceptable, but then say that saying no to child labour isn't enough.  Since 2004, H&M has been working alongside UNICEF to help abolish child labour around the world, and have been able to help over million children in the process.  Their code of ethics also states that young workers (those under 18, but above the legal age of employment) are to be protect from any type of hazardous work, work that may interfere with their education, or that could be harmful to their health, physical or otherwise.  The code also states that they don't accept forms of bonded, prison, illegal or forced labour.  H&M not only does yearly unannounced audits of its factories, it also visits them to educate workers about their rights, and to interview workers to ensure they know how their wages are calculated.

Hudson's Bay Company

They Bay has adopted a statement under the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which states that a third party company does social compliance inspections of their factories, and that child labour, forced labour and hazardous working conditions are unacceptable.  It's pretty wordy, and doesn't say a lot other than that besides the fact that all factories must follow the laws of the countries they're in.


Icing is owned by Claire's.  Check out Part 2 to find out why Claire's received a yellow score.


J76 is a yoga apparel company, but unfortunately, they don't seem to have any information about their supply chain on their website.

Jersey City

Jersey City also has no information about their supply chain on their website.

The 3.5 million Bangladeshi garment workers, and everyone else who is involved in making our clothing, should benefit from the crazy amounts we North Americans spend on clothing each year.  As I do this research, I'm always amazed and excited to find companies that are going above and beyond - not just ensuring they aren't contributing to the injustice, but that are actively working to end it.  Of course, there are tons of amazing companies that you won't find in a mall that are doing great things to help people all over the world climb out of poverty.  If you want to learn about some of them, check out some of my earlier posts!

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