Corporate Greed in the Fashion Industry
For decades, there has been a growing awareness of the corporately-provoked, widespread issues afflicting humanity; these including child labor, modern-day slavery, sexual and gender-based violence, and environmental destruction. Concomitant with the ascendancy of neoliberal economic policies, these same issues, stemming from greed, were taken to appallingly loftier heights.
Today, the already-blurred line dividing business and governmental authority has seemed to have disappeared entirely. This is not to say that trickle-down economic policies alone are to blame for current levels of inequality, though they played a heavy role in bolstering them.
How many crimes against humanity have multinational corporations (MNC’s) such as Nike, Walmart, Nestlé and Amazon (to name a few) been responsible for whilst heavily profiting from the misery they generate?
Though the focus of this blog series has been on Tirupur, India, citizens of countries such as Haiti, the Congo, China, Indonesia, and Bangladesh have all experienced the woes of corporate greed while pleading for better legislation (or the enforcement of it). Like the citizens of Tirupur, these individuals continue to experience the results of a lopsided business model.
Variables in this equation include, but are not limited to, MNC’s creating surplus value by:
Outsourcing work to developing (“exploitable”) nations
Taking advantage of limited environmental and/or worker laws; as well as the potential lack of law enforcement of these
Purposefully instilling layers of complexity to elude accountability; such as by employing contractors, subcontractors, etc., so as to create higher degree of plausible deniability
Offering lower pay at various stages of production
Output, of course, includes the profits taken by the MNC, yet also yields high levels of suffering for those under the influence of the above variables. Put another way, those who are exploited by MNC’s witness their superiors benefitting from their systematized destitution. Issues such as environmental destruction, forced labor, modern-day slavery, child labor abuse, and sexual and gender-based violence remain rampant in these heavily outsourced nations[i].
There is no quick fix, of course, as these issues are multi-faceted and are unique with regards to a nation’s cultural and social norms. As aforementioned, the root cause remains glaringly obvious: the driving force of greed. We at Justice in Fashion focus on issues inherent in the fashion industry, although any global industry generates similar effects. Until new legislation is passed that does not merely benefit executives and policy-makers, the millions who give their time and energy, (willingly or not), will continue to suffer under the callous policies of corporations.
(These articles are also published as part of a blog series for "Justice in Fashion", which is a non-governmental organization aiming to reduce exploitation and imbalance in the fashion industry. Please go and support them: https://www.justiceinfashion.org/ )
[i] Howard, N. (2016). Scandal Inside the global supply chains of 50 top companies. [online] International Trade Union Confederation.
Available at: https://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/pdffrontlines_scandal_en-2.pdf [Accessed 4 Sep. 2021].
Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/cfDURuQKABk