John Oliver’s plea to apparel firms about their supply chains

A recent program aired by John Oliver in “Last Week Tonight” (first aired Sunday, April 26 2015) on HBO focused on the link between the demand for inexpensive trendy clothes and associated supply chains. He focused on examples where products for the Gap, WalMart, Children’s Place etc were produced by unauthorized subcontractors who violated safety standards and even used child labor. The retailers claimed that their contractors had in turn created these subcontracted tasks without authorization. John Oliver compared this lack of knowledge regarding the entire supply chain to the equivalent of mystery ingredients and processes in preparing food – sending such packages of mystery food – large quantities procured at cheap prices – to CEOs of apparel retailers to make the point. How much should we hold retailers responsible for knowing their entire supply chain and ensuring that all suppliers involved in the production adhere to the code of conduct specified by the retailer ? Is the consumer demand for low prices the cause of this proclaimed ignorance i.e., will rules have to be broken to deliver such low prices and fast turnaround ? Should the apparel industry turn to a third party to certify their supply chains or should only those who can certify their supply chains be permitted to sell product to the US consumer ?

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About aviyer2010

Professor
This entry was posted in Capacity, consumer, Cost, Global Contexts, labeling, Supply Chain Issues and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to John Oliver’s plea to apparel firms about their supply chains

  1. The level of supply chain transparency is very low in nearly all industries, not just fashion. “Made in China” doesn’t tell the consumer what the working conditions are of that factory.

    Some businesses make extra effort to ethically source everything, but this is directly expensive (cost of observing) and indirectly expensive (breaking rules can be cheap). When a business successfully develops an ethical supply chain, they should promote those efforts in their marketing. This has been successful for many businesses, and I expect these efforts to be rewarded for differentiation.

    Another element of this is that importing good makes the manufacturer less personal. If my next door neighbor needs a kidney transplant, I’m likely to help. If someone in Spain needs one, I probably won’t. This de-personal supply chain makes consumers care much less about how it is made. One way to improve this issue is to make the supply chain much more personal for the customer. This led to the #whomademyclothes trend on Twitter.

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