The most prominent ethical issue within our industry is sweatshops. I hesitated to include this one in the fashion industry ethics post as sweat shops can be used to create more than clothes. The dictionary defines sweatshops as:
“a factory or workshop, especially in the clothing industry, where manual workers are employed at very low wages for long hours and under poor conditions”
Sweatshops are used within mass produced areas of our industry to do exactly that – mass produce. These factories are often set up in poorer countries that have less legislations on working conditions than we do in the west, and are grateful for employment opportunities – no matter how poor the working conditions. Some even argue that without these sweatshops, unemployment and financial struggle would be a bigger issue in these countries. I am guilty of buying into sweatshops, everyone is. I’m going on holiday in a few weeks and already I’m planning to hit Primark before I board the plane. We can’t resist how cheap the clothes are in these shops. Why would we go elsewhere and pay £20 – £30, or even more, more? Because they don’t treat their employees like slaves. They pay them more than peanuts and treat them like human beings.
Now that we know products can be produced for such a low price, we demand them. We, the customer, have created such a demand on the industry that they require these sweatshops to meet that demand.
The final problem created by sweatshops is transportation. Somehow we need to get those products from Bangladesh (for example) to the shelves in our local shopping centre. The cheapest and fastest way of travel for this is by air – which is damaging our environment. In my post on the environmental issues present in our industry I tried to keep ethical issues separate, but the two come hand in hand. If we kept the production within our own countries the environmental issues would decrease, but this ups the price of production. The companies would have to pay a minimum wage and meet certain standards; which they don’t in the poorer countries. By producing away from home they can massively up their profit margin.
Image belongs to saybrookproductions.com