9 July, 2020
Globalisation is often blamed for rising environmental and social problems, but the reality is much more complex: local supply chains can be as problematic as global ones; just as global supply chains can deliver as many benefits as local ones.
Poor working conditions in garment factories, often associated with the rise of globalisation, do not only happen in countries like Vietnam or Bangladesh. There have been suggestions that Leicester’s COVID-19 spike was linked to a clothing factory producing garments for UK brands, such as Boohoo. Regardless of whether that is the case, conditions found in this factory mirrored what we may assume only happens elsewhere: not only were there no social distancing measures in place, but workers could expect to be paid a meagre £3.50 an hour (compared to the national minimum wage of £8.72 an hour).
In contrast, some brands fare very well with local supply chains, like Community Clothing. Its simple goal is to provide quality clothes all the while creating jobs in some of the UK’s most deprived areas. Instead of paying for advertising space, this brand favours sustainable production and paying its workers the living wage.
Just as the local versus global debate around where to buy one’s strawberries from proved that the environmental impact of produce supply chains is more complex than initially thought, the same goes for clothing. As always, it’s important to look behind the label and make a decision based on facts, not assumptions.
By Marie Guérinet