Purchasing Ethics: Picking out Clothing With Limited Information
The United States Department of Labor has come out with a 194-page report in which it identifies products made in various countries under conditions where “there is a significant incidence of forced labor and/or child labor in production”.
The following are countries in which the Department of Labor finds there is a significant incidence of forced labor in the production of apparel:
The following are countries in which the Department of Labor finds there is a significant incidence of child labor in the production of clothing:
The Department of Labor notes [page 44] that this is not an exhaustive list, and that the absence of a country from the list shouldn’t necessarily be taken as an indication of ethical production there:
Data can be unavailable for various reasons including that it is not collected by the government or others, or is intentionally suppressed by the government.
But let’s start with those countries in which a significant pattern of slave or child labor has been established. This much is known, but further information is limited. Under current arrangements that multinational corporations have with these countries and the United States, the use of child labor or slave labor in particular factories does not need to be acknowledged either in public documents or on clothing tags. This may change if S. 1631 is passed unaltered. But right now, if you pick up a piece of clothing at the store, you can only determine its country of origin.
With the information that you have and the information that you don’t have, I’d like to pose two questions:
When you pick up a piece of clothing at the store, will you look at its tag to note its country of origin?
How will the limited information you have about production practices affect your decision to buy that piece of clothing?
Share your answers by following the comments link below.