Get Primark to Publish its Supply Chain to Stop Unethical Labor Practices!
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In 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh that housed several garment factories collapsed and killed over 1100 people in a human rights disaster. One of the factories in the building was connected to Primark, and although the factory was considered to have better working conditions than the others in the building, Primark seems to have trouble with other instances of unethical labor. In 2008, BBC exposed a Primark supplier's use of child labor from a South Indian refugee population.
Primark isn't necessarily the monster in these cases--the company is quick to respond to issues when they are found. The South Indian factories exposed were sacked immediately. The company's process in investigating and monitoring its factories are more thorough than most, and its solutions to human rights issues in the countries it sources from keep structural issues of those countries in mind. Primark has partnered with agricultural experts to introduce small farmers in developing countries to more environmentally sustainable methods of farming, and the company has set up a program to educate workers about their rights. But the textile industry has always been obfuscated by the drive to make profit, and the codes of conduct many companies lay out are not easily enforced due to sweatshop gangs and widespread cheating. Just 4% of Primark's factories complied with ethical standards, and serious human rights infringements were found in 31% of them.
If the factories are so profit driven, the best way to combat human rights infringements is to sack them when code violations are discovered. However, Primark's closed process of investigation is not the most efficient way to discourage unethical labor in third world countries. We as consumers actually have a lot of power in enforcing ethical labor as long as we are adequately informed of where our clothing comes from. Despite steps in the right direction, Primark is still stubborn in insisting that publishing its supply chain will negatively affect its business.
However, Primark needs to keep this channel of communication open if it genuinely wishes to support human rights in factories. When labor activists are informed of Primark's supply chain, they will work to investigate the labor ethics in those factories and expose infringements just as BBC exposed the factory in India. Although releasing the supply chain may seem to have negative repercussions on profit for Primark, activism and business are part of an 'unwitting conspiracy' that results in a win-win situation. As activists help improve working conditions, Primark's clothing quality and reputation will be vastly improved. Despite the relatively transparent ethics page on the Primark website, Primark is still generally known for ethical transgressions in its factories.
Everything we consume has a cost. As Primark customers (and people who like to be clothed on a daily basis), show Primark that we care what we wear and sign the petition!
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