The Ethical Manufacturer — The Booby Traps of Certifications


By Daniel Cardozo

In my first post in this series, I discussed the empowering decision to care about the connection between the ‘stuff” we all buy, and the human beings who create that stuff with their hands, in factories across the world.

I also discussed how that feeling of empowerment can quickly turn into helplessness. The global supply chain is not only rife with exploitation and misery, but also designed to keep you from discovering that very exploitation.

I promised to explore some tips and tricks from an ethical manufacturer about how to peer behind the curtain and reclaim some control over the implications of our own spending on human health and happiness. Over the next few entries I’ll be focusing on certifications.

Short of talking directly with workers about the conditions they face in factories, certifications are the very best way to determine whether the products you buy are consistent with your values. However, true to form, corporations have set up countless booby traps to lull you into a false sense of security that you’ve done your due diligence. Industry-backed certifications look good but, at the end of the day, they generally do very little to protect workers from sweatshop conditions that jeopardize their health and squelch any opportunity for advancement up the economic ladder.

Let’s talk about one common certification – The Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production or WRAP.

Their website talks a very good game, and you would be forgiven for assuming that a WRAP-certified garment is safe from the systematic exploitation of workers. WRAP portrays itself as an “independent, objective, non-profit team of global social compliance experts dedicated to promoting safe, lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing around the world through certification and education.”
Sounds good, right?

But, “objective” and “non-profit”? A closer look reveals that six of WRAP’s board members are manufacturing-industry professionals. In other words, individuals who make their living directly from the profits derived from apparel factories.

Chew on that for a while, and for my next entry, I’ll discuss some good news (yay!) about certifying organizations that aren’t managed by the very business they purport to hold accountable.

Daniel Cardozo is the CEO of Ethix Merch. To visit the site, click here.


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