Cheap clothes, at what cost…..our ethical responsibility as consumers

Although this issue has been weighing on my mind significantly over the last few months, the 60 minutes show tonight has spurred me into action (some good from commercial tv!). The question of where our clothes (and other consumer products for that matter) are produced and the conditions they are produced in can no longer be ignored by consumers. Purchasing any clothes which have been produced in conditions which do not meet international human rights standards is unethical by any measure. 

The difficulty, as with all such questions is about getting reliable information on which to make informed ethical choices. A website which provided accurate information about clothing producers and retailers and whether their production standards meet minimum human rights standards would be a good start. I am not aware of any such website but if there is one out there please let me know. 

For a start, one retailer which was named tonight by 60 minutes was K-Mart. Whilst there was little detail about the exact working conditions and the knowledge of the company about possible working conditions that might infringe human rights standards, the fact that K-Mart is shown to be relying on manufacturing in Bangladesh is enough to shift the onus to the company to show that it is meeting the requisite standards. Until this is done, their products should be boycotted, along with other companies in the same position. 

About mumurings

mother, lawyer, philosopher, feminist, writer, artist
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2 Responses to Cheap clothes, at what cost…..our ethical responsibility as consumers

  1. Viv says:

    I totally agree, sadly my response comes via my iPhone. I think Apple has one of the worst human rights records.

    • mumurings says:

      Yes, that highlights the difficulties faced by consumers worldwide in addressing these issues. Many of the goods which are being produced in such terrible conditions have become indispensable to our way of life, either because we now rely on the technology (Apple) or we expect to purchase certain goods at a certain value (cheap clothes). This means that the struggle for the protection of human rights can easily slip into the realm of the well off who can afford to make such changes. The question then becomes, how can we as consumers make ethical purchasing decisions in isolation from our personal financial status. The answer is that we cannot, ultimately one’s ethical responsibilities are guided to a large degree by our financial means. There are however other actions which can be taken – favouring one retailer over another on the basis that they have a better human rights record, even if there are still concerns. Petitioning governments to take a stand against such practices and simply spreading the message about these conditions.

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