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Supply Chains in Burma

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factoryworker

H&M can say that it’s outraged by finding out its clothes are made by 14 year olds in Burma all it wants to. But when H&M decides to contract out with clothing manufacturers in Burma, it’s doing so knowing damn well that there is basically no labor oversight in that country and that children are going to be doing much of the work. Given that child labor has been the open goal of the textile industry for over 200 years and that the labor conditions of nations like Burma, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh are well known, H&M has no space to claim ignorance or outrage. Or they do have space to claim it because avoiding claims of responsibility and day-to-day control over things like working conditions (not cost or on-time delivery of course) is the central point of the textile supply chain. H&M cares about one thing–cost. So long as they get the clothes for very cheap, the executives are happy. Now, a story like this coming out might spawn some sort of concern precisely because it threatens profit if consumers are turned off, but it’s not like these executives give two whits whether Burmese girls live or die. H&M absolutely could do plenty about this. It could agree to international inspections, binding fines for violations paid by the company, etc. But at least from what I can tell, it is not agreeing to any of this. Nonetheless, American companies are significantly worse and openly callous. The European social climate demands a little more of their corporations on issues like this so there’s a little more hope here than there is for Walmart or Target, who flat out don’t care.

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