Ethical Manufacturing – Right Here in the UK
Last week tragedy struck when the Rana Plaza building in Savar near Dhaka, India collapsed on the morning of the 24th April. Some 3,000 people were inside manufacturing garments for stores all over the globe including Primark, here in the UK. Despite the warning signs; the emergence of cracks in the walls, production continued and financial profit was once again given priority over human life.
The tragic collapse of the multi-storey factory with 3,000 workers inside image
courtesy of the BBC
Slave-labour wages, child-labour, unsafe equipment, toxic fumes, unsafe buildings; the manufacturing industry has a long history of unethical behaviour – all so we in the West can enjoy fashion at cheap-as-chips prices. And while many industry guidelines and procedures have been put in place it seems they are not always implemented. This coupled with rapid growth of the manufacturing sector in various poverty stricken locations tends to attract many cowboy operators that are willing to cut corners and costs.
However, UK retailers do have a choice as to where they manufacture as do consumers when it comes to where they spend their hard earned cash. In amongst all this talk of sweat shops and unsafe working conditions there is a glimmer of hope with the resurgence of manufacturing returning to British soil. Once again labels are beginning to read ‘Made in Britain’ and UK based manufacturing outputs are on the up.
Leading the way is our very own FashionCapital factory based in North London. Due to increased demand in production the factory recently moved from 4,500 square foot which produced 5000 units a week to now 7,500 square feet with an additional mezzanine floor increasing production to 7,500 a week.
The new larger FashionCapital ‘The Factory’ based in North London
On the disaster and FashionCapital Factory Managing Director Jenny Holloway comments:
“The disaster in Bangladesh is dreadful and there is never any excuse to put lives at risk for any manufacturing. There seems to be a general outcry against retailers such as Primark and also Monsoon who were using this factory but I think that there has to be some kind of rational response here. Primark and Monsoon don’t want to see these disasters either. They have ethical audits and systems in place but when you are 1000’s of miles away you can not ever be 100% sure if the production is sub-contracted out to another unit.
It’s interesting to note the comments of Alison Philips in the Daily Mirror today: ‘According to them; (sneering broadsheet papers) anyone who has ever snapped up a £3.99 Primark scarf – has blood on their hands. And so yet again the little consumer is made the fall guy for an outrage that is actually caused by big business.’
I personally don’t believe that any representative of these retailers and e-tailers would have approved a factory with cracks in or approved the owner to build another two floors on top of the building plans. However this sub-contracting of orders is going to happen when you can’t fully control the source of supply and that’s one of the reasons why we are experiencing a huge demand for our production in our factory in North London.
We are now able to make 7,500 garments a week. Our clients are ASOS, Topshop, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis and we have just opened an account with River Island. I am an ex-Senior Buyer and I know the importance of compliance and the right transparent standards. I could not sleep at night if I thought we were bending any rules. The tragedy in Bangladesh is a wake up call for the outsourcing of production for everyone. Retailers need people on the ground in these countries to ensure that full compliance in garment manufacture is achieved. That costs money and in turn that makes the production in the UK even more favourable.
Our heart felt sincere wishes go to each and every person in Bangladesh that has been affected by this terrible tragedy.”
While it is debatable how well retailers can thoroughly govern factories across the globe the positives of manufacturing in the UK are plain to see; good working standards and employment rights, less carbon footprint, easier to oversee plus a boost to the UK economy – this surely is the way forward.
By JoJo Iles