Saturday, May 11, 2013

Is the Bangladesh Building Collapse Economic Terrorism of the Haves Upon the Have Nots in Disguise?

So now with more than 1,000 dead from the Bangladesh factory collapse we think it's time we consumers wake up from our collective ignorance of where our products come from, whether they're made within a socially responsible and transparent framework and expect better from ourselves in our buying habits.  While the companies themselves may shoulder a great deal of the burden we consumers and the system we willingly participate in are to blame as well.

Retailers are Pressed on Safety in Factories by the New York Times offers an update as the death toll climbs over 1,000 and an overview of what's been happening this week in response to the disaster.  There's also an online petition you can sign from Avaaz here.

Is this essentially quiet behind the scenes pervasive economic terrorism by the haves inflicted upon the have nots?  I don't like using the word terrorism but I can't think of an adequate alternative.  It makes me very uneasy using it but doing so wakes me up in a way I can not ignore. (Are there other words more apt, let me know.)

Here's one of the major reasons the companies are in this country....From this article

"Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest apparel exporter after China, has the lowest minimum wage in the world — $37 US a month — which has helped it attract billions of dollars in orders from the West."
(After checking a variety of sources, this claim appears not true enough.  Cuba is $5 US a month, a number of former Soviet republics a little higher, Tajikistan $17 US,  India is $47 US, Vietnam $95 US, Mexico $102, China $137 US)

Here's the major kick and challenge to we 'haves' identified at the end of the article.

"Kellie A. McElhaney, an expert on corporate social responsibility at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, predicted that these pressures would hardly sway the companies. “They are feeling a lot of pressure, but it’s not coming from consumers. It’s coming from N.G.O.’s,” she said, referring to nongovernment organizations. “They’re not feeling it in the marketplace. I believe they’re going to do the bare minimum. The N.G.O.’s need to make more consumers aware of this.”

With that statement, the retailers will change their ways only if they feel the pain financially.   The only way to do that is we consumers to purposefully take our business elsewhere.  Are we ready to wake up and read the labels of the clothes we wear, seek to buy and expect greater transparency from retailers and honesty from ourselves? And for those businesses out there already taking the alternative more socially responsible path trumpet the values you hold dear and the walk you walk everyday in your business.

Perhaps this disaster can act as a wake up call and energize a move towards more socially responsible business practices and greater awareness by consumers about the value of transparency about supply chains behind the products we buy everyday?  I don't know.  I hope so. What do you think?

Does this building collapse matter to you? Does it make you think twice and look at the labels of the clothes or products you're buying this weekend?  Next week? Next month?

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