Huge investments, high profits, factories are some common terms we come across when talking about the corporate world. Apart from profits now companies having social awareness are willing to adopt 'Ethical sourcing' as a part of their corporate social responsibility. It is the responsibility of every small and big business enterprise, to verify and make sure that the products they sell have been produced in a proper manner by giving respect and dignity to the workers.
Through ethical sourcing, the companies join their hands to improve the working conditions of the workers who manufacture the goods they buy. Many of us love fashion and splurge on latest fashionable clothes. Has anyone wondered how these clothes are manufactured? Millions of workers are exploited all over the world by the fashion industry producing fashion goods. This has been ongoing since long and now it has reached a height when we along with the help of government, NGO's and brands together fight for the workers' rights and control the companies who exploit the workers for their gains.
There are many renowned brands that have outsourced their production to developing countries and these expensive clothes are made in the so called 'Sweatshops'. There is no particular definition for a 'Sweatshops'. In simple words it is an environment that is difficult, extreme exploitation of workers and unacceptable working conditions.
According to the US department of Labor sweatshop is a workplace which breaches two or more labor laws. Workers in the sweatshops work for long hours and still are underpaid, given poor working environment, subject to child labor and with no worker benefits. It is normal to pay meagerly in the sweatshops, hence the poor workers are never able to raise their standard of living or make any savings. Therefore, they are engulfed in a vicious exploitation cycle.
It is to be noted that sweatshops are not limited to factories only. Agricultural workers in the world are equally forced to work at low wages and harmful working conditions. Women make a majority of field workers. They work all day in an unhealthy condition open to the toxic pesticides and insecticides which later result into many health problems. Even in America where it is seen that labor laws are enforced find many agricultural workers without appropriate working conditions or pay.
The horrifying tales of sweatshops are never ending. Human trafficking cases have also come up at sweatshops. The workers are lured by the employers for better job and earnings. Most of the people are uneducated and accept the terms and conditions without being aware of what is written. The workers then work for the rest of their lives to pay off their debts. All over the world sweatshops contravene women's human rights.
The women are tortured in every possible manner in the sweatshops. They are threatened with physical punishment, verbally abused and beaten up many times. Most of the women are uneducated and not aware of their rights. There have been instances when women are not allowed to take breaks or even go to the bathroom during working hours.
Few sweatshops in Indonesia force women to disclose their menstrual cycle to the factory doctors to avoid pregnancy. These vulnerable females have no choice but to endure the harassment from their managers. Many female workers face sexual harassment; pregnant women undergo forced abortions and sometimes have to give sexual favors to the employer.
Countries like India, China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Honduras accept outsourced work from developed countries so that they can provide employment to the people of their country and earn profits. Although international and domestic human rights agreements are in place, many countries do not to follow them therefore the rights of the workers are not protected.
According to the report of International Labor Organization around 250 million children under the age of 14 years in the developing nations work in sweatshops. These can be divided into 61% in Asia, 32% in Africa and 7% in Latin America. Some children are forced to work, deprived of education, trapped in the workplace and beaten up. Sometimes children are kidnapped and taken to some new place and forced to work.
These innocent children away from their families, unable to speak the local language and no way to flee from the clutches of the employer spend years working in terrible conditions. In America the labor laws are more stringent compared to the under developed countries nevertheless, many companies get away from the eyes of Department of labor laws and operate sweatshops.
The basic question is- how to end the sweatshops and implement ethical sourcing in each business sector globally. In Australia if a garment bears the tag of Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) means that it has been produced by people who have received their wages correctly and suitable working conditions. Every company must believe in creating a positive impact on the society.
To end the sweatshops, it should be made mandatory for companies to give complete disclosure regarding what they pay and how they treat the workers and environment of the place where they work. The disclosures should be independently checked and if any infringement occurs must be cleared in a manner that protects the workers. It is good to know that many inventive minds are working on these issues and coming up realistic solutions.
Nowadays, manufacturers working for big brands take the responsibility of the workers working in the fields or factories and ensure that the brands name is not soiled. The companies should strive to maintain a balance between profit and social responsibility.
The only way to ensure that the brand sustains its name and goodwill is by ensuring that everyone involved with the brand are paid and treated properly.
When manufacturing process got shifted to the developing countries as a result of globalization, " ethical sourcing'' became the highlight. Ethical sourcing is an amalgamation of safe working conditions and human rights. Companies must take care that their supply chains adhere to ethical sourcing. There is a parallel social responsibility to purchase local products to support local peoples development. This is termed as 'Social purchasing'.
Lastly, the only way to increase a company's brand value with their employees, buyers and local people is through ethical sourcing and social purchasing. When companies invest their money not only to earn profit but also to build social goals, they can create a sustainable relation with their manufacturers which largely improves and affects the community in a positive way.