What cost is acceptable to consumers?
The word is getting smaller every day, and no nation can stand alone in the matters of commerce. The news recently has covered the tragedy in Bangladesh where the death count has exceeded 300. One of Canada’s major retailers Loblaw’s is facing severe consumer backlash over the Joe Fresh line of clothing sourced from that factory. According to Canadian Press, Loblaw’s has sent representatives to Bangladesh to “We will be looking at what are the efforts that have been made and what else needs to be done? Where do we need to put pressure? We will also be discussing these issues with the federal government,” said Diane Brisebois. Source: Edmonton Journal
In 2010 between January and November Foxconn had eighteen workers attempt suicide, resulting in 14 deaths. The majority of these deaths were listed by the company as fell from building, not jumped or suicide. Foxconn was and is a major supplier of products to such companies as Apple, Dell, HP, Motorola, Nintendo, Nokia, and Sony. 20 Chinese Universities looked into the situation and described conditions, similar to those found in a labor camp. Foxconn increased wages at the plant, and brought in suicide prevention measure including nets, ant-suicide pledges, and mandatory waivers binding against the workers and their descendants, as a result of unexpected death, self injury or suicide. Apple received a backlash from consumers, over these issues with one of their major suppliers.
In 2012 Apple dealt with about 200 suppliers around the world to produce it’s products. This doesn’t include suppliers of materials to it’s contracted suppliers. Ford motor products deals with almost 90 Aligned Business Framework Partners, who work closely with Ford to cut costs, improve turn-around times, and control quality. Any manufactured product today has parts sourced from around the world. Yet the standards that companies face fro worker protection, and environmental compliance vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. All this to lower production costs, and increase returns to shareholders. In a recent move Walmart, once held up as the champion of outsourcing has committed to increasing American produced goods in it’s stores by $50 billion over 10 years, as well as hiring veterans.
However it is the consumer that has the greatest influence in these matters. If we refuse to buy products made by child laborers, or in countries where workers have few or no protection, and by demanding that products be made in the most environmentally responsible way possible. Yes this comes with a cost, including the real possibility of forgoing a purchase until the item can be sourced from suppliers that meet our expectations. Many North Americans and Europeans have a relative or perhaps themselves who has had their job out-sourced to a lower cost country. Seldom do consumers see these savings passed along to ourselves, instead increased returns to investors seems to be the norm.
I have developed a policy I try to use in assessing these situations, however each of us has to make our own choices. I try to choose companies that treat the environment and their workforce with the dignity and respect I would want applied to myself, and where I live. When I make a purchase, I try to put my beliefs in doing no harm to other sentient beings into practice.
1. If a locally made product is available within 15% of the price of an imported product I choose the locally made. This helps keep my neighbors and other taxpayers here working. The more working, paying taxes the fewer needing government assistance, which allows those who truly need help to receive it.
2. When making a purchase try to buy from a company with high environmental standards in practice. Almost every company has a green statement these days, but a little time spent researching, shows which companies do more than just print slogans. As I tend to keep my electronics longer than many, the cost difference is less of an issue.
How do you see this issue, leave me a comment so we can develop a dialogue leading to a better understanding of the issue. There is no cut and dry answer to these issues, but working together we can raise the benchmarks that apply to all of us.