The Fashion Trap: Why Fairtrade Works in Coffee but not in Clothing

By Stephan Manning.

The recent collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh was devastating. Over 400 mostly young female workers died; over a hundred are still missing. An ‘accident’ that would be unthinkable in the U.S. or Western Europe. Prior concerns about the building conditions (including a large crack) had been ignored – by the owner, by government officials and global buyers. Whether or not clients, such as Benetton, Cato Fashions, Primark, Mango and Joe Fresh, actually knew about the situation is not important. The fact however that they did not make sure – even after a series of recent fires with hundreds of casualties in similar factories, such as the Tazreen factory – that basic safety standards many of us take for granted are met and followed up on is revealing. After decades of protest and campaigns by ILO and international NGOs, such as the Clean Clothes Campaign, it seems that the global fashion industry has not even managed to secure very basic health and safety conditions for garment workers in major producing countries. Continue reading

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Corporate Power in an Age of Global Value Chains

By David Levy.

Gerald Davis and Israel Drori make the provocative argument in their thoughtful piece, After the Collapse of the Large Corporation – Progressivism 2.0?, that the era of powerful, large corporations able to provide long-term economic security for employees is over. If the corporate giants of the last century required a strong, centralized government to provide adequate regulation and countervailing power, Davis and Drori contend that we need new models of governance for an era of fragmented, networked economic forms. While it’s undoubtedly true that economic activity has become more disaggregated in the internet age, the demise of the large corporation, and more importantly, of corporate power, has been greatly exaggerated. Continue reading