Welcome to the newest regular, irregular feature here at WAIW?. In each “Where I’m wearing today: Adventure of an engaged consumer” post, I will select an item of clothing that I’m wearing and see what I can learn about the brand and country that produce it with a few clicks of the mouse.
I’m sure the posts will evolve over time, but, for now, here’s the methodology.
1) Link to the brands corporate code of conduct, if they have one, and list what’s good about it and what’s not-so good about it.
2) Google “(brands name) + sweatshop” and see if any red flags popup.
3) Google “garment industry + (country of origin)” to see what the latest news is in industry.
4) Give basic country facts: per capita income, unemployment rate, etc.
So, without further ado, let’s give it a go.
Today I’m wearing a pair of North Face cargo shorts Made in Bangladesh.
North Face is owned by the VF Corporation. It took several clicks to find this out and several more to locate their code of conduct and compliance materials. VF also owns North Face, Reef, Lee, Rustler, Nautica, and many others.
1) Corporate responsibility
The good –
The VF Corporation has the standard code of compliance.
Audit Procedure – “Nothing can be done even a sample until a factory inspection has taken place. Will be done by an accredited auditing company. Conduct an annual review.”
“Due to political, environmental, and human rights issues there are certain countries
that are deemed unacceptable for the manufacture of VF products. This is a
continually changing situation, so the VF compliance office maintains an updated
The not-so good–
Don’t reveal factory locations.
Only two brands – Lee and JanSport – work with the FLA. They do this because they sell these brands to colleges. This shows the strength of the Sweatfree movement on college campuses.
Brags that average score of their owned/operated factories is 96% compliant, but the factories are graded on their own grading scale.
2) Negative press –
Humanitynews.net complains about the purchase of North Face uniforms for their police force : “Some police uniforms come from Horace Small and North Face, affiliates of the largest apparel corporation on the globe, VF Corporation. They don’t list factory locations, but Horace Small participates in W.R.A.P., a non-profit monitoring contractor. (Other affiliates of VF Corp., such as Nautica, are known to have sweatshops in Myanmar, which is a military dictatorship.)”
3) Made in Bangladesh in the news
Per capita income – $1,400. Considering that the workers I met in Bangladesh earned between $30-$70 a month, this # shows that per capita income isn’t that useful when looking at how much garment workers actually get paid in a particular country.
Unemployment – 2.5%. This seems pretty good until you consider…
Population below poverty – 45%