When you get dressed in the morning, you might be too groggy to remember what the production tags on your outfit say, but it is something you should pay attention to before you hit the check out. In a world where nearly everything is globalized, it is easy to lose sense of the origins of the items we consume.
Many of us will probably remember scandals in the 90s when big companies like Nike were called out for producing their shoes and garments in sweatshops, production facilities designated so by horrendously poor working conditions. The discussion of sweatshops goes back to the mid-1800s, and undoubtedly further, although they may have just been more accepted and less talked about. Having fair access to reasonable working hours and compensation in a safe work environment seems like pretty basic rights to those of us who are privileged enough to expect it. The reality is that the expectations of big industries to provide products that are priced competitively combined with the disconnect between those who are making the decisions and those doing the actual production, created an environment for these kinds of facilities to exist without too much attention. Thankfully, that isn’t the case so much anymore and the voices of mistreated workers are being heard.
Even if a factory isn’t quite in sweatshop status, working conditions can still be less than acceptable. As a result of advocacy groups speaking out, more conversation is created around the responsibility of companies in the clothing and textile industry to take on some of the responsibility for how their products are produced. Governments in many developing countries either haven’t made it a priority, or are unable to allocate enough resources towards enforcing proper labour laws. This means businesses need to make it their priority to source from accredited facilities.
At COL, we have chosen to source from Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) facilities as often as possible. WRAP is “...an independent, objective, non-profit team of global social compliance experts dedicated to promoting safe, lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing around the world through certification and education.” (WRAP) Started in Arlington, Virginia, USA, in early 2000, they now have staff in Hong Kong, Bangladesh, India, and Southeast Asia. The organization was created as a response to poor working conditions in the apparel, footwear, and sewn products sectors, with the goal to “...create an independent and objective body…” that can verify that factories “...are operating in compliance with local laws and internationally-accepted standards of ethical workplace practices.” (WRAP)
WRAP’s expectationsare guided by their 12 Principles.
These principles are enforced by a team of trained auditors who perform unannounced inspections on certified factories to ensure compliance. WRAP is governed by 10 Board Members the majority of whom are required to be outside the footwear and apparel industry.
The designation is only available for production facilities, not for brands themselves, and is not a membership organization. WRAP gives brands the opportunity to do the right thing by choosing a certified factory to produce their clothing, and offers peace of mind that their products are being made ethically. It encourages production facilities to maintain required standards so that they can qualify for certification, giving them not only moral accreditation but higher visibility to brands looking for ethical factories.
The biggest criticisms that WRAP has sustained relate to transparency and placing responsibility on suppliers, as opposed to brands. However, any certification that exists can always be better at communicating their results and encouraging the greatest number of people to bring their businesses in line with moral production practices. Creating a globally recognised designation is an admirable feat, especially one focused on the security and dignity of workers, and social responsibility of businesses, causes we are happy to support!
As COL grows, with it will grow our ability to seek out the best fabrics and production facilities. Our goal is to be sourcing all our items from 100% WRAP certified factories as soon as possible. And as we evolve, we will always strive to comply with the best production standards in the industry.
Consumers can vote with their dollars, choosing to support businesses that produce ethically and give back to their communities. As an ethical consumer, what is most important to you? Message us on our social media accounts or e-mail us through our website and let us know. We value your input!
Take a peek into the second annual TED-Q through a Q&A with the founder, Billy Quirke as he explores what matters the most to us in our everyday lives.