Who pays the price of a bargain?

Everyone loves a bargain. The thrill of walking out of a high street shop with the deal of the century. But do we ever stop to think “Why is it this cheap?”.

The Rana Plaza Tragedy rightly dominated the news, and with each update the story became more devastating - 1,134 people lost their lives, and thousands were seriously injured in the collapse of an illegally constructed building in Dharka wherein garments were produced for Western retail giants.

An inspection team visited Rana Plaza, where the factory building is located in the suburb of Savar, the day before the collapse and asked the owner to keep the building closed after they identified cracks in it. That instruction, however, was ignored. 1,134 people died in Dharka in an avoidable disaster, ultimately at the hands of their employer – what could be a higher price than that?

If there can be a silver lining, the Rana Plaza scandal has served to highlight the on-going and shocking conditions people are working in around the world. It’s appalling to see that workers today are still faced with no food to feed their families or nowhere to sleep, people have no choice but to go to work, putting their health, safety and even their lives at risk – and it’s not acceptable. People around the world, many of whom have purchased products made at these factories, are becoming more and more aware of this kind of bad practice and are changing their attitudes and behaviour as a consequence.

Although we all admittedly love a bargain, we need to start making responsible decisions if we want change. If we stop purchasing those £6 shoes, or that £8 dress, we can ultimately stop the pressure and demand the big retailers are putting on these suppliers far down the supply chain to work endlessly hard for essentially nothing at all. We need to put pressure on the retailers to take a look at their supply chains and take action in ensuring best practice and conditions throughout the entire chain.

 

RETAILERS - FINDING THE TRUTH

With convoluted supply chains spanning the globe, leading retailers rely on third party eyes and ears in the form of on-site auditors, and trust in management of the organisations producing their goods via self-assessment declarations.

Supply chain media scandals are constantly hitting the news, many of which tell a story of employees paying the price for their employer’s mistakes, such as suicidal employees and workers trapped in burning buildings. You can’t help but wonder, are retailers getting it right with the compliance-driven model?

Within the very real context of untrustworthy audits and unreliable management, compliance is no longer enough for retailers to gain an honest account of an organisation’s practices. Audits must move from a pass/fail risk assessment towards greater transparency throughout the chain.

We believe the key to achieving transparency lies in harnessing the collective voice of the workforce in a bottom-up, top-down view of the organisation, and dealing comprehensively with identified areas of risk before they become the next scandal. Our global, ethical supply chain assessment tool enables organisations to assess their current strengths and weaknesses, or those of their supply chain management. 

It's time for retailers to reconsider their actions in how they ensure fair and safe working conditions throughout the entire supply chain, especially now the Modern Slavery Act is in full force. The act requires large companies to declare a statement of actions they are taking to eliminate slavery and human trafficking from their supply chains and what better way to start than gaining an insight into the views and working conditions of ALL of your workers? To find out more view our Supply Chain Assessment.

What is your view? Feel free to comment on our blog, share your thoughts or contact us at info@responsibletradeworldwide.com.