Finding well-known clothing brands or retail stores that don’t use sweat-shops is an arduous task. According to one on-line resource, Behind the Label, “today, almost all retailers use exploited labor to produce their goods.” There are some interesting websites listing the “most ethical companies” or giving out grades based on different ethical issues, but they don’t always seem to agree. For example, the Ethisphere site lists Target among the world’s most ethical companies for 2011, but the Better World Shopping Guide only gives it a D. They are probably judging by different criteria, but to the average Joe, i.e. me, that is not easy to digest or live on.
That being the case, Behind the Label puts their stock not on boycotts or refusing to shop certain stores or brands, but rather in putting pressure on companies to raise the standards in factories they use around the world. There just aren’t enough good options right now. If you’re not ok with that, you need to speak up. Factories want to get the major clothing deals. If they can’t get them because of their unethical standards, they will have to change. The retailer is the major agent of change for that. And as consumers, the world at large is responsible for putting the pressure to change on the retailer.
Further Reading on Behind the Label’s strategy: